- 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.