. . . You take the position that ADHD and many of these other psychiatric
diagnoses are fraudulent. Why?
An active opponent of the ADHD diagnosis, Baughman has been a child
neurologist, in private practice, for 35 years. He is also a medical expert for
the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an advocacy group founded by
the Church of Scientology in 1969.
The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, the DSM, lists
18 behaviors, from which a teacher can check off behaviors she observes in the
potential patient or student. Likewise, the parent or caregiver does the same
thing. In the current DSM, if one checks six or more of the nine, the
individual is deemed to have ADHD.
Let there be no mistake about it. Present-day psychiatry, led by the National
Institute of Mental Health in league with the American Psychiatric Association
and the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, represents ADHD . . .
to be a biologic abnormality of the brain, a so-called neurobiologic disorder.
Their representation to the entire public and to all the teachers and all
mental health professionals is that, having ticked off six or more of these
nine behaviors, one has diagnosed an organic or a physical abnormality of the
Their neurobiologic propaganda has been so intense for so many years, that the
country believes in this. ... We've got probably, conservatively . . . six
million [children in the United States] on medications for ADHD and a total of
nine million with neurobiologic psychiatric diagnoses of one sort or another,
on one or more psychotropic drugs. Here we're talking about as many kids as
you've got people in New York City, and to me, this is a catastrophe. These
are all normal children. Psychiatry has never validated ADHD as a biologic
entity, so their fraud and their misrepresentation is in saying to the parents
of the patients in the office, saying to the public of the United States, that
this and every other psychiatric diagnosis is, in fact, a brain disease.
Establishing whether it's actually a biological brain disease seems to be a
less important issue. The question is whether there aren't certain conditions
with symptoms that can't be aided and addressed with psychotropic medications.
What's wrong with that?
Well, what they've done essentially is to propose that there are children who,
up to the time they walk down the schoolhouse path, seem to everyone to be
entirely normal. But what they have proposed is that there are children who
are misbehaving at school and at home who are inherently unable to achieve
self-control because they've got something wrong in their brain. This ignores
whether or not their parenting is optimal, and whether or not their de facto
parenting in school or disciplining at school in the hands of a teacher is
optimal or not. ...
But in the real world, parenting will never be optimal. Schooling is rarely
optimal. But we've got a class of people telling us, psychiatrists and family
physicians, that there is a drug that can help children that have a certain set
of symptoms. What's wrong with that?
I think that the deficiency is, in fact, in the adults . . . It's a terrible misstep not to require any
correction of the adults who are responsible for the development of the child.
. . . By denying that there is any problem at all in the adults, and just
accepting that it's a chemical imbalance and you're going to take a pill for
it, I think you're going to leave unaddressed and undone . . . things that must
be done, and should be done, and are being done in proper homes, and are being
done in parochial and private schools throughout the country. . . .
How do you respond to the parents who give glowing testimonies about how
that drug has helped their child?
Psychiatrist and author of Talking Back to Ritalin, Breggin founded the
nonprofit Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. He has been a
vocal opponent of the ADHD diagnosis and he strongly opposes prescribing
psychiatric medications to children.
In America today, it's easy to go out and get glowing testimony from parents
about how wonderfully their children have been doing on Ritalin. There was a
caged animal, a polar bear, in the zoo in Toronto, who was pacing up and down
and looking uncomfortable, and looking like he'd really like to go back to the
Arctic or the Antarctic. And they put him on Prozac, and he stopped pacing.
His name was Snowball. He sat quietly and looked happy. And animal rights
people gathered to the zoo and protested the drugging of a polar bear to make
him into a good caged animal, and he was taken off the drug.
We have lost track of what childhood is about, of what parenthood and teaching
is about. We now think it's about having good quiet children who make it easy
for us to go to work. It's about having submissive children who will sit in a
boring classroom of 30, often with teachers who don't know how to use visual
aids and all the other exciting technologies that kids are used to. Or there
are teachers who are forced to pressure their children to get grades on
standardized tests, and don't have the time to pay individual attention to
them. We're in a situation in America in which the personal growth and
development and happiness of our children is not the priority; it's rather the
smooth functioning of overstressed families and schools. . . .
There are no miracle drugs. Speed--these drugs are forms of speed--don't
improve human life. They reduce human life. And if you want less of a child,
these drugs are very effective. These parents have also been lied to: flat-out
lied to. They've been told that children have a neurobiological disorder.
They've been told their children have biochemical imbalances and genetic
defects. On what basis? That they fit into a checklist of attention deficit
disorder, which is just a list of behaviors that teachers would like to see
stopped in a classroom? That's all it is. . . .
One of the really obscene things that has happened is that psychiatry has sold
the idea that if you criticize drugs, you're making parents feel guilty. What
an obscenity that is. We are supposed to be responsible for our children. . .
. If we're not responsible for raising our children, what are we responsible
for? If children aren't entrusted to us for the specific purpose of our
turning ourselves inside-out to be good parents, what is life about? It is a
disgrace that my profession has pandered to the guilt of parents by saying,
"We'll relieve you of guilt. We'll tell you your child has a brain disease,
and that the problem can be treated by a drug."
That's pandering to the worst desires that we have as parents--all of us--which
is to say, "I'm not guilty of this problem." . . . I'd rather be guilty as a
parent, and say, "I did wrong," than say, "Son, you have a brain disease."
Sure, we're all tempted. We're all tempted, when we're in conflict with our
children, to hold them responsible. And how much easier it is if we don't even
have to hold them responsible. . . .
Let's talk about the lawsuits that have been filed against the Novartis, the
manufacturer of Ritalin.
On Tuesday, May 2, a class action suit was brought against the manufacturers of
Ritalin and Novartis, against [CHADD], a parents' group that has been heavily
funded by the drug companies, and the American Psychiatric Association--for the
fraudulent overemphasis on the ADHD diagnosis and treatment with Ritalin. The
American Psychiatric Association, CHADD, and the drug manufacturer are accused
of conspiracy. The case has been brought in Texas by the law firm of Waters
& Krause, and is now actually in the courts. . . . Probably there's
going to be a series of related cases, or at least a number of attorneys coming
together, around this issue of fraud and conspiracy in the promotion of the
diagnosis and the promotion of the drug.
So that will hinge on showing what? Damage to the children?
No damage is required to be shown to the children in this case, because it's
not that kind of product liability case. All that the parents have to show is
that they spent money on Ritalin, when they were in fact fraudulently induced
to think that it would be worth something. . . .
There's actually a great deal of evidence for a conspiratorial relationship.
According to international law, you cannot directly promote a highly addictive
Schedule II drug to the public. Ritalin is in Schedule II along with
amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine and morphine. And you're not allowed to
put ads in the newspaper for that. You're not allowed, according to
international conventions, to directly promote to the public. ...
There are 6,000 studies, hundreds of double-blind studies, and yet, there's
still controversy. Why?
Professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Massachusetts
Medical Center in Worcester. Author of numerous books on ADHD, including
ADHD and the Nature of Self-Control and Attention-Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment.
There is controversy about ADHD, I believe, partly because we are using a
medication to treat the disorder, and people find that to be of concern. But
there's also concern because ADHD is a disorder that appears to violate a very
deeply held assumption that laypeople have about children's behavior. All of
us were brought up believing, almost unconsciously, that children's misbehavior
is largely due to the way they're raised by their parents and the way they're
educated by their teachers. If you wind up with a child who is out of control
and disruptive and not obeying, that that has to be a problem with child
rearing. ... Well, along comes this disorder that produces tremendous
disruption in children's behavior, but it has nothing to do with learning, and
it isn't the result of bad parenting. And therefore it violates these very
deeply held ideas about bad children and their misbehavior.
And as long as you have this conflict between science telling you that the
disorder is largely genetic and biological, and the public believing that it
arises from social causes, you're going to continue to have tremendous
controversy in the mind of the public.
Now, there is no controversy among practicing scientists who have devoted their
careers to this disorder. No scientific meetings mention any controversies
about the disorder, about its validity as a disorder, about the usefulness of
using stimulant medications like Ritalin for it. There simply is no
controversy. The science speaks for itself. And the science is overwhelming
that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative: it's a real disorder;
it's valid; and it can be managed, in many cases, by using stimulant medication
in combination with other treatments.
Many people in the public ask, "Where were these kids when I was growing up?
I've never heard of this before." Well, these kids were there. They were the
class clowns. They were the juvenile delinquents. They were the school
dropouts. They were the kids who quit school at 14 or 15 because they weren't
doing well. But they were able to go to work on their parents' farm, or they
were able to go out and get in a trade or get into the military early. So they
were out there.
. . . Back then, we didn't have a professional label for them. We preferred to
think of them more in moral terms. They were the lazy kids, the no-good kids,
the dropouts, the delinquents, the lay-about ne'er-do-wells who were doing
nothing with their life. Now we know better. Now we know that it is a real
disability, that it is a valid condition, and that we shouldn't be judging them
so critically from a moral stance. . . .
Skeptics say that there's no biological marker--that it is the one condition
out there where there is no blood test, and that no one knows what causes
That's tremendously naïve, and it shows a great deal of illiteracy about
science and about the mental health professions. A disorder doesn't have to
have a blood test to be valid. If that were the case, all mental disorders
would be invalid--schizophrenia, manic depression, Tourette's Syndrome--all of
these would be thrown out. ... There is no lab test for any mental disorder
right now in our science. That doesn't make them invalid.
. . . In this country, there is a tenet of faith that says that any difficulty
in life can be overcome if you have a good character, if you try hard enough
and long enough. And so they don't like that tenet of faith challenge, that
there are some children who come from the womb genetically predisposed to
being inattentive, compulsive, somewhat reckless, and perhaps aggressive, no
matter how hard they try. Trying harder is ineffective.
A psychiatrist in Denver, Colorado, Dodson ascribes ADHD mostly to biological
causes. He is paid by Shire Richwood, the makers of Adderall, to educate other
physicians about the drug's efficacy.
These people confuse an explanation for misbehavior and failure with an excuse.
In point of fact, when people are diagnosed with ADHD, more is expected of
them, not less. Now that you've got the diagnosis, now that you're on
medication, our expectations for your performance in life are going to
increase. But there are a lot of people who say, "I don't want to let the
person off. I don't want this to be an excuse." But it's not an excuse. It's
an explanation. . . .
I would ask those people to prepare themselves for that day 15 or 20 years from
now when their child comes to them and says the following, "Now, let me get
this straight. You saw that I was struggling. You saw that I was failing in
school. You saw that I couldn't fall asleep at night. You saw that I was
having trouble with my interpersonal relationships. You knew that it was ADHD.
You knew that it had a good safe treatment. And you didn't even let me try?
Explain that to me."
Those folks had better start working on their answer right now, because
they're going to need 15 or 20 years to come up with a compelling answer for
their child who asks them that question. "You saw me struggling and you did
nothing?" That's a good question. And to me, it's a far more compelling one
than saying, "We don't have perfect answers, therefore, let's do nothing."
There doesn't seem to be a lot of consensus about ADHD, even among your own
Formerly the head of child psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental
Health, Jensen was the principal author of the landmark NIMH study NIMH, the
Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (MTA). He is now the director of Columbia University's Center for the
Advancement of Children's Mental Health.
I think there's consensus among most medical professionals that ADHD is a
neurobehavioral disorder, that it's severe, that it affects boys somewhat
probably more than girls, and that it's treatable. Now, where consensus begins
to break down is how workable the treatments are, and effective and safe over
the long-term; and what the exact causes of it are. And it likely has many
There isn't good consensus about the best way to draw the boundaries between
ADHD and other syndromes. But I think you will find that most experts do agree
that it's a real disorder that we can characterize reliably, that it has bad
outcomes if left on its own, that we can do something about it, and that there
is a research agenda that does need further pressing forward and carrying out.
. . .
The job of medical science is to decide when it's a real medical condition that
has suffering and impairment and lowers the quality of life--and sometimes not
only lowers the quality of life, but lessens productivity and even actual days
of life. Depression is a good example; we know there that life is actually
shortened by suicide.
But kids with ADHD are also at risk for dying somewhat earlier. They are at
risk for accidents. It's true for most of the psychiatric disorders. We don't
know all the reasons why that is. Sometimes it's accidents, sometimes it's
something like suicide. Sometimes it's because people don't obtain adequate
health care. There are a lot of mysteries here. But the diseases of the mind
shouldn't be treated any differently than the diseases of the other parts of
the body, and we've done that too much, I think, as a society. . . .
What about the idea that ADHD is not a disease--that it's simply behavior
that's a result of ineffective parenting?
There's no question that a child's behavior affects adults, and adults'
behavior affects children. We call that "the human condition." Can it be the
case that some children's difficulties are because they're not being handled
appropriately? Absolutely true, of course. But does that explain ADHD? Well,
all of the studies suggest just the opposite, in fact. When we do these
studies to teach parents the most elegant, best parenting strategies that we
know how to do--including things you have to get a PhD in parenting to
learn--when we give parents and teachers those skills, does it make these
problems go away? No. It reduces them a little bit, but there's something
different for many of these children. . . .
There is a real need to get the message out, to help parents understand ADHD.
This is not something a child chooses just to do. "Oh, I think I'm going to
have real difficulties attending," or, "I don't want to attend," or "I want to
look out the window and not attend to the blackboard." If you study these kids
as we have, these kids feel bad about themselves. They don't want to be this
way. In many ways, it's like a learning disability. Whereas you can
maybe sit and listen and attend to me for hours on end, these kids' minds are
off after 10 or 15 or 20 seconds. . . . Most kids can track this kind of
situation, or a classroom situation, for minutes, tens of minutes, twenties of
minutes, or even an hour on task, with minor deviations. . . . These kids
can't. It's not that they're willfully disobedient or that we have bad
teachers. . . .
A lot of people out there say that all of this is just a fraud, that you've
invented this disorder, along with hundreds of other psychiatrists and along
with the pharmaceutical industry, which just wants to make more money. They
say that there is no litmus test diagnosing ADHD, and this is just a whole
bunch of subjective symptoms. What do you say to those people?
Vice chairman of psychiatry at New York University, Koplewicz believes that
ADHD is a legitimate brain disorder. He wrote It's Nobody's Fault: New Hope
and Help for Difficult Children and Their Parents. He is director for the New York University Child Study Center.
I think that the most important part is that when you're able to
systematically study what these kids look like long term, you start to
recognize that without treatment, these children lose out on a normal life.
They can't get the joy of getting decent grades. They can't get the joy of
being picked to be on a team. They get very demoralized. They don't
necessarily get depressed, but life becomes a very demoralizing place. If
you're yelled at on a continual basis at your job, you'll quit. If you go to
school on a regular basis and you're constantly missing out on whatever is
being taught and you start to feel that you're foolish and stupid, you learn to
quit. And that's maybe one of the reasons why you drop out. . . .
To suggest that this is a fraud, that somehow children are being abused by
these treatments, is really an outrage, because for these kids, to not get
treated is really the greatest abuse and neglect. . . .
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