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Insight on the News - Features
Issue: 02/25/02



Picture Profile
Neurologist Baughman Dispels The Myth of ADHD

By Kelly Patricia O’Meara

Photograph by Fred Greaves

Retired California neurologist Fred A. Baughman Jr. fired off a letter in January 2000 to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in response to Satcher's Report on Mental Illness. "Having gone to medical school," Baughman wrote, "and studied pathology — disease, then diagnosis — you and I and all physicians know that the presence of any bona fide disease, like diabetes, cancer or epilepsy, is confirmed by an objective finding — a physical or chemical abnormality. No demonstrable physical or chemical abnormality: no disease!

"You also know, I am sure," Baughman continued, "that there is no physical or chemical abnormality to be found in life, or at autopsy, in 'depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.' Why then are you telling the American people that 'mental illnesses' are 'physical' and that they are due to 'chemical disorders?'"

Baughman concluded his six-page letter to Satcher by saying that "your role in this deception and victimization is clear. Whether you are a physician so unscientific that you cannot read their [the American Psychiatric Association's] contrived, 'neurobiologic' literature and see the fraud, or whether you see it and choose to be an accomplice — you should resign."

It is this direct, no-nonsense style that has made Baughman a pariah among the psychiatric and mental-health communities and a hero to families of children across America who believe they have been "victimized" by the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) label. The "disease," Baughman tells Insight, "is a total 100 percent fraud," and he has made it his personal "crusade" to bring an end to the ADHD diagnosis.

Insight: You've spent 35 years in private practice as an adult and child neurologist, diagnosing real diseases. What spurred your interest in the ADHD diagnosis?

Fred A. Baughman Jr.: Through the 1970s and 1980s the ADHD "epidemic" began to impact all of us, and the numbers of children being referred to me were increasing dramatically. I'd examine these kids to determine whether they did or did not have real diseases. After giving them thorough examinations, doing such tests as I deemed were necessary, I couldn't find anything wrong with them.

I was becoming more and more aware that something was afoot from the tone with which the diagnoses were being made in schools and by psychiatrists who were part of the school team. And never mind that I could find no scientific basis for the diagnosis. But here were pediatricians and school psychiatrists practicing mental health in ways that did not make sense. Principals and teachers would threaten that if I didn't diagnose ADHD they'd find someone who would. As a neurologist, I'm in the business of diagnosing real diseases, so this attitude on the part of people who should know better was very disturbing.

Personal Bio

Fred A. Baughman Jr.: The outspoken neurologist began his private practice in San Diego in 1975.

Currently: Leading critic of chemistry-set psychiatry.

Personal: Born Nov. 14, 1932, El Centro, Calif. Married with three children; three grandchildren.

Education: B.S., New York University, 1955; M.D., adult and child neurology, New York University, 1960.

Career accomplishments: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 1968; fellow, American Academy of Neurology; medical adviser, National Right to Read Foundation; member, Academic Review Panel, Research in English Acquisition and Development (READ) Institute.

Publications: "The Glioma-Polyosis Syndrome," New England Journal of Medicine, 1969; "Re-evaluation of CHANDS," Journal of Medical Genetics, 1979; "Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," Journal of the American Medical Association, 1995.


Insight: You are among a small number of physicians publicly to challenge the psychiatric community about this diagnosis. Why do you think so many doctors are diagnosing ADHD when they, too, must know there is no scientific data to support it?

FAB: Most physicians, like the public, have bought into the whole psychiatric line. The populace at large has been so brainwashed by this "tyranny of the experts" that they cannot bring themselves to believe things are other than what the psychiatric industry and the pharmaceutical companies tell them. The population has been told again and again that these "diseases" exist, despite the fact that there is no scientific proof to back up their claims.

People have been lied to so often that they can't disabuse themselves of the notion that these so-called diseases are chemical abnormalities of the brain. Psychiatry never has proved that ADHD, let alone depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD], even exists. Yet this hasn't stopped doctors from diagnosing them. It simply was decided during the early days of psychopharmacology — of psychiatric drugs — that these were nice theories and they were fed to the public as fact.

Insight: With the diagnosis comes the "fix," the prescription pills that reportedly help control these diseases.

FAB: Yes, that's right, and like the unscientific diagnosis no one really knows how these drugs work on the brain. It's all just theory at this point.

But then this same psychiatric community says even depression is a disease resulting from a chemical imbalance. They also say that OCD is a disease with a known chemical abnormality of the brain. In neither case is there proof to support either claim. Through the years, though, they've gotten to fudging their line a bit, saying instead: "Well, it's a psychiatric disorder."

Insight: You've testified before Congress on this issue, and several of your papers on these matters have been published in medical journals. Recently you traveled to France to address a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of France as a counterweight to ADHD advocates. What kind of response did you get?

FAB: I was charged with presenting the argument against the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. I never expected it to go so well.

Three European psychiatrists presented the case for the ADHD diagnosis using the same old slide-show presentation, presumably showing brain atrophy in the patients diagnosed with ADHD.

I pointed out to them, as I've done numerous times here in the states, that all the patients in the slides whose brains showed atrophy also had been on stimulant therapy, so there was no way to know that the atrophy was not, in fact, caused by the drugs rather than the alleged brain disorder ADHD. A member of the council committee summarized what had transpired during the day and basically said they didn't believe what the psychiatrists had presented about ADHD — that they were skeptical about the appropriateness of the drugs recommended for the diagnosis.

One of the psychiatrists was so intimidated by my argument that he threatened to leave the meeting. It was just amazing to see this guy get so frazzled. The council was terrific, and I couldn't have imagined so favorable a response. It was so unlike a typical U.S. response. I think the Europeans are trying to resist this whole ADHD business.

Insight: You set up a Website, www.adhdfraud.org, to help get information out to parents who have been impacted by the ADHD diagnosis. What kind of response are you getting from parents?

FAB: I hear from many families who have been victimized by this diagnosis. By the time they find me their eyes usually have been opened and they realize the fraud of the diagnosis. But they also realize how serious the diagnosis is for the child and the problems it can create for families.

On the other side of the coin, of course, are the perpetrators at the National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH] and the academic psychiatrists who put out the ADHD propaganda. These people also know who I am and try not to respond to the letters and papers I write. They don't want to see me at medical conferences and seminars because they know that I have the facts, take no prisoners and am willing to show that they are perpetrating a fraud. If they can keep the public in the dark about the facts of this alleged "disease" then science is beside the point.

I'd love to debate the surgeon general or anyone in the hierarchy of academic psychiatry, but I don't think any would agree. The surgeon general wouldn't even respond to the letter I wrote to him about his Report on Mental Illness, so I don't see him stepping up to the plate anytime soon.

Insight: You've testified in court for nearly two dozen families who were fighting the ADHD diagnosis. What should parents do when their child has been diagnosed?

FAB: People are being told in no uncertain terms that this "disease" exists and should be treated with drugs, so it's extremely difficult to get the truth out. The essential first step of the perpetrators is to label the child with ADHD. I've seen how these things turn out for those who try to go up against the system, and it is very sad. Before parents find themselves in a legal adversarial relationship with the school system and county officials, they should get their child out of that school and either homeschool them or put them into a parochial or private school. I tell parents with children caught up in this fraud that, for now, going against the system is a no-win situation.

Insight: What will it take to turn the establishment crowd on this issue?

FAB: I'm trying to expose the medical fraud and to get just and appropriate medical treatment for children when it is needed and, where it isn't required, I'm trying to get appropriate education, parenting, disciplining and training so these children can achieve self-control. They all certainly are capable of it.

We've got to do something because we're talking about 6 million to 8 million children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. This just can't wait.

Kelly Patricia O'Meara is an investigative reporter for Insight.

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