Hyper-Drugging of Active Kids
By Kelly Patricia O'Meara

State legislatures are beginning to take action to rein in the widespread practice of drugging hyperactive children to control their undesirable behavior in the classroom.
As the nation's schoolchildren frolicked in the summer sun, lawmakers in the Nutmeg State spent the break tackling educational reform. The Connecticut General Assembly unanimously voted to prohibit teachers and other school officials, including counselors and psychologists, from recommending psychotropic drugs for any child.
Chief sponsor of this reform, state Rep. Lenny Winkler, tells Insight, "I value the teachers in Connecticut and I think they do a wonderful job, but medical diagnoses should not be in the hands of teachers." Specifically, the new law calls for local and regional school boards to adopt and implement policies "prohibiting any school personnel from recommending the use of psychotropic drugs," and it also requires that "if school personnel perceive that a child may have a behavioral or psychological problem, a letter shall be sent to the parent or person having control of the child recommending that an appropriate medical or behavioral evaluation be conducted by a licensed physician."
As Winkler sees it, "We're trying to do what is best for our kids. There are just too many far-reaching effects of these drugs, and we really need to do something about them." When not serving in the General Assembly, Winkler is an emergency-room nurse and personally has seen consequences of the increased prescription of psychotropic drugs. "When the kids come into the emergency room, we have to ask the parents if their children are on any of these drugs. I've seen more and more kids on them, and it bothers me to no end. I didn't know what was going on."
It is estimated that between 6 million and 8 million children have been prescribed Ritalin to treat the still scientifically unproved "mental illness" called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This widespread doping in turn has increased concern that school-age children are being drugged to control their behavior.
Fred Baughman, a child neurologist, researcher and staunch critic of the ADHD diagnosis, tells Insight, "It is my duty as a doctor to know whether patients have a disease and whether previously rendered diagnoses, such as ADHD, are proven diseases. I have been unable to validate or demonstrate a disease or objective physical abnormality in children said to have ADHD. Finding no objective physical abnormality, including a chemical one, means they have no disease; they are physically, medically and neurologically normal."
While Baughman applauds the steps that lawmakers are beginning to take to rein in prescription of psychotropic drugs to control schoolchildren, he is not leaving it at that. "It would be a simple affair," explains Baughman, "to subpoena and swear in the experts, such as the surgeon general and the heads of the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association, and put the 'disease' versus 'no disease' question to them regarding ADHD, or any or all of 'biological' psychiatry's alleged diseases."
"The question," concludes Baughman, "is simple: What and where is the confirming, objective, demonstrable, diagnosable abnormality in ADHD or any psychiatric disorder? Given that there is no confirmatory, diagnosable, objective, physical abnormality, individuals said to have it are normal and cannot legally be put on Schedule II controlled psychostimulants. In fact, there is no physical or chemical abnormality to be found in life, or at autopsy, in depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD or any other 'mental illnesses,'" this neurologist alleges.
Connecticut mother Sheila Matthews stepped into what she called the "ADHD nightmare" when her first-grade son was put on a "behavioral chart" for being too verbal and excitedly calling out answers in class. When the child complained of feeling different because of being cited on the chart, Matthews took it up with the school. "The next day," she says, "I went to the school psychologist to get him off the chart and she spent 45 minutes trying to convince me that he needed to be on it. In the meantime, the chart was destroying my son's self-esteem; he felt like he was being singled out ó that he was a problem. When he started school he was really eager; then he was put on this chart and he started to hate school."
Matthews bucked the system, and the boy was given a battery of tests. One of these was the ADHD Rating Scale-IV, a checklist based on criteria from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association that is used to diagnose a child as having ADHD. Matthews tells Insight that she "wasn't aware that the test wasn't approved" by the board of education or the state and federal governments. Indeed, she explains, "No one was willing to take responsibility for this test." But when her son was diagnosed with ADHD on the basis of the test the school psychologist said the only thing that would benefit him was "behavioral modification and medication."
"Parents," says Matthews, "are being given selective pro-drug material, and they're not being told about dangerous side effects ó or that the drugs are addictive. I had to do the research on my own. Basically it was a case of patient beware, and it shouldn't be that way. When you give a parent selective research and tell them how great a drug is and tell them their kid will benefit from it, then you're heading into real danger. No other industry has total access to our children the way the psychiatric community does, and I think this new law is just the beginning of changes to come. Today parents have to be educated consumers, but kids should be off-limits as targets of convenience for the drug industry."
Matthews concludes: "I respect President [George W.] Bush, and my message to him would be that there can be no education reform until you get this disorder out of the schools. When you have to use mind-altering drugs to teach in the classroom, then you've gone down a path of no return. I'm looking for education and I want the mental-health industry out of our schools. A parent who feels the need to take a child to a psychiatrist can decide if and when, but it shouldn't come from the school." The Connecticut General Assembly is just the most recent in a growing number to agree.


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