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interview: fred baughman

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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.

FRONTLINE interviewed Baughman on May 4, 2000.

You take the position that ADHD and many of these other psychiatric diagnoses are fraudulent. Why?

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 brain.

Their neurobiologic propaganda has been so intense for so many years, that the country believes in this. This is the characterization of ADHD that virtually all physicians give to potential patients or parents of patients. This is the characterization that educators give to parents of students in schools. ...

If psychiatry and the NIMH were saying, "We're only diagnosing troublesome behaviors in a normal individual. And we are going to remedy these with behavior modification or with talk therapy or with family therapy or with educational techniques," that would be entirely true from a scientific point of view, and entirely valid. But as Dr. William Cary said at the NIH consensus conference, "You've got five out of nine, and you're quite all right. You get six out of nine, and suddenly your brain turns to mush; it turns abnormal. I've got a lot of trouble with that." Why can't we just call them normal?

We've got probably, conservatively ... 6 million children in the United States on medications for ADHD and a total of 9 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. There aren't many schools, or homes for that matter, where one can say that parenting and schooling are optimal. I know our schools in California are in just horrible straits.

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 ... To maintain that the deficiency is in the child and not to require any correction of the adults who are responsible for the development of the child is a terrible misstep. ... 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. ...

... You're saying it's willful negligence on the part of those people that are prescribing these drugs?

I think there are people within the hierarchy of ADHD research who are actively representing this and other neurobiologic mental disease constructs as diseases, when they know they are absolutely not--when they know there is zero scientific evidence.

What do you mean, "They know it's not a biologic disease?" What do psychiatrists know?

... They know the illusions of disease and biology that their pseudoscientific biologic research weaves... . They are intentionally deceiving the public.

That's quite a charge--that psychiatrists are intentionally deceiving the public. How so?

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Lawrence Diller, who is the author of Running on Ritalin, pointed out that, in the past 10 years, the public and professionals in the United States have come to believe that psychiatric or mental illnesses are biologic diseases, and that they are then logically treatable with pills. What he didn't say was that, in that period of time, not only had professionals and the public come to believe--they've been led to believe that these things were actually biologic--that they were actually brain abnormalities or brain diseases--absent any proof.

That representation is very evident in all of CHADD's literature, primarily. CHADD's primary job has been to convey to the public that ADHD is in fact a brain disease. And they persist in calling it neurobiologic; they persist in calling it genetic; they persist in saying that the myths pertaining to ADHD include such things as it's something you can control on your own, or something that behavioral therapy helps, or that it's due to bad parenting. Their whole informational packet about ADHD is that there's something inherently wrong in the brain of the child; that that's why the child has ADHD; that's why the child cannot control himself or herself; that's why the child needs drug treatment.

Representing such things as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities as diseases absent any scientific proof, is to deceive the public and is to preempt the public's right to informed consent in eveYou've said that ADHD doesn't have a biological marker. But that's true of the majority of times that someone comes to see a doctor, unless they have a broken leg or an obvious malady. They're diagnosed on the basis of symptoms. The art of medicine is to read symptoms and guess what the problem is and apply drug therapy or some other kind. So are you misleading people by making the point that there's no biological marker?

... All physicians take a history, and that's most important in the diagnostic process. But history-taking remains in the realm of the subjective. You get cued as to where to go on--with your physical examination or with laboratory diagnosis or with radiologic diagnosis--in your search for objective evidence of an abnormality. So I may fully suspect in the history-taking that the spells I'm being told about are seizures. I might, on the other hand, suspect that they're ... fainting spells due to cardiac arrhythmia. But certainly, before I would start electroconvulsive therapy, which is usually lifelong once a patient has been diagnosed as epileptic, I would need to find abnormalities on an EEG.

But that doesn't always apply in many cases. How would you identify someone early on, biologically, as having Parkinson's disease?

There are all sorts of objective things that the physician sees with the typical stooped, still posture as the patient comes into the office.

How is that different from a child who's jumping off the walls? That's something you can see.

Yes, but ... children's level of activities vary tremendously from one location to the other, from one to the other. ...

I'm not a doctor or a neurologist. But I know I will talk to doctors who tell me that, 70 percent of the time, they're confronted with symptoms, and we don't find biological markers before diagnosis or prescription.

There are a lot of ... busy family practitioners, busy pediatricians, busy general internists, who, under the pressure of time, do make diagnoses and do prescribe, based primarily on history. But when it comes to diagnosing something that's serious--and if we're talking something abnormal about a child's brain or something abnormal about an adult's brain--that has lifelong consequences. A diagnosis of ADHD, most psychiatrists will tell you, is going to require lifelong psychotropic medication, usually Schedule II control psychostimulants, amphetamines, of which Ritalin is one. That's an extraordinarily serious diagnosis. ...

You've got to demonstrate the characteristic confirmatory physical abnormality before you obligate that patient to lifelong treatment. I can suspect diabetes based on the history, but I've got to confirm it. I've got to know whether the blood sugar is 420 or 800. ... I can't ever start insulin treatment or any oral anti-diabetic treatment without confirmatory evidence.

Why did it happen that there are all these kids on drugs?

... Physicians have half the number of new patients that they had in 1965. To make ends meet financially, they have to invent things to do. Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry have become financial economic partners. And frankly, part of their economic compensation has been to develop a strategy whereby they claimed, without science, that all mental illnesses, all things behavioral and emotional, are physical brain dysfunctions or abnormalities.

Representing such things as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and learning disabilities as diseases, absent any scientific proof, is to deceive the public. It preempts the public's right to informed consent in every single case.

... As Diller pointed out, they've led the public to believe that these are brain diseases, chemical imbalances--making it logical for the public to think that a pill is going to be the solution. ...

But the charge that the psychiatrists and the pharmaceuticals have joined together in a joint common mercenary interest is quite a charge. How can you say that?

I'm not the only one saying this. In October 1995, in the DEA background paper on methylphenidate, which is Ritalin, the DEA says that they have been contacted by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), that had expressed concern about the financial ties of Ciba-Geigy, then the manufacturer of Ritalin, to CHADD. They noted that CHADD had received over $775,000 from Ciba-Geigy, I think up through 1994, and eventually the figure went over $1 million. The INCB charged CHADD with being a vehicle for marketing a controlled substance directly to the public in violation of the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, and international statute by which all countries, all signatories, agreed.

Ciba-Geigy confessed at that point that CHADD was their conduit to the public. CHADD personnel and NIMH personnel were regularly in-house at the Department of Education office of Special Education authoring ADHD materials. I think CHADD made a grant, I believe, of $700,000-some to the Office of Special Education to make a video about ADHD. Then when John Merrow, in his video production in about 1995 ... pointed out the financial ties between the Ritalin manufacturer, Ciba-Geigy and CHADD, I think that money was then given back by the Department of Education, back to CHADD.

But CHADD is an interest group. We know that CHADD is in favor of diagnosis and prescription of Ritalin. Psychiatry as a whole supports this diagnosis.

As the diagnostic criteria are set forth in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual, psychiatry ceased specifically identifying entities that appeared in the manual as either organic or neurologic, or non-organic or psychiatric. And they were accused, in fact, by myself in correspondence to Clinical Psychiatric News, back in 1994, of doing this to facilitate their misrepresentation of things psychiatric as being organic, as being actual diseases.

In the same issue of Clinical Psychiatric News, Theodore Perelman, a psychiatrist, pointed out to the leader of the DSM committee, Dr. Pincus, that one could readily get the opinion that they've done away with the organic/non-organic distinction specifically because they were trying to hide something or blur the lines. And this was a pointed accusation by one of their own people.

In order to make more money?

In order to facilitate their representation of these things to the public as brain abnormalities, as brain diseases. So it's a psychiatry-wide strategy, and a psychopharmaceutical-wide strategy.

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