|8 March 2004
For many years, methylphenidate has been the 'treatment' of choice for children diagnosed
with 'ADHD', usually in the form of Ritalin, which is manufactured by a company called
Novartis (formerly Ciba-Geigy).
I was reminded last week, in the matter of the forced drugging of school children, of a
claim by those who advocate its use that Ritalin "has been prescribed safely and
effectively for more than 40 years".
Indeed, Dr. Russell Barkley, Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at
the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and widely considered to be the world's
leading expert on 'ADHD', has called it "safer than aspirin".
When I sought some opinions on the assertion that Ritalin has been used safely for more
than 40 years, one of the replies I got was that "safely" means "most people who take it
do not die as an obvious result".
As it happens, some very interesting numbers were passed on to me a couple of weeks ago
that may shed a little candlelight in that direction:
"Of 2,993 adverse reaction (AR) reports concerning "Ritalin" or "methylphenidate" listed
by the FDA's Division of Pharmacovigilance and Epidemiology (DPE), from 1990 to 1997,
160 deaths and
569 hospitalizations - 36 of them life-threatening.
One hundred twenty-six (126) were cardiovascular occurrences, and 949 central or
peripheral nervous system occurrences.
There were 6 cases of "cardiomyopathy,"
12 of "arrhythmia,"
7 of "bradycardia," (slow pulse),
5 of "bundle branch block," (impairment of conduction apparatus of the heart),
4 of "EKG abnormality,"
5 "extrasystole," (heart rhythm abnormalities),
3 "heart arrest,"
2 "heart failure"
10 "hypotension," (low BP),
1 "myocardial infarction,"
15 "tachycardia" (rapid pulse).
But get this - figures from post-marketing, voluntary reporting systems such as this,
in which the doctors having bad luck with a drug are the ones deciding whether to report
or not - are estimated to report no more than between 1 and 10 percent of actual
occurrences of said adverse reactions.
Don't forget to add the additional 26 deaths provided in the FOIA [Freedom of Information
Act] ... addressing the years of 1998 up thru 9-2000. This then made for a KNOWN total
of 186 deaths for JUST methylphenidate in the decade of the 1990's."
So, if only an estimated 1-10% of adverse reactions to drugs are actually reported, as
suggested above, that means that during the 1990s there could have been somewhere between
about 30,000 and 300,000 adverse reactions to methylphenidate and between about 1800
and 18,000 deaths! Of course, that's only surmise, but it seems reasonable to suspect
that considerably more than 186 users of methylphenidate have died as a result, obvious
Perhaps a good question to ask, then, might be: Just how safe is aspirin?!
Since I started looking closely at the subject of 'ADHD', I've collected quite a lot of
information about drugs. Most of it is stuff I've never even thought about before. I
think at least some of what follows may be news to you, too.
This first item is from an article I've already mentioned in a previous issue of Parental
Intelligence - There Are No "Chemical Imbalances" by Eaton T. Fores
"Today, drug use is divided into two categories: medical use, and abuse. When a drug company
wants to sell a new psychotropic compound, it needs to do two things. First, it must assure
that, although psychiatrists will prescribe it, no one will like taking it. This assures that
it will not be designated a "controlled substance," which would have an enormous negative
impact on its sales. Second, a disease must be fabricated for which the new drug is "indicated,"
and the disease entered into the compendium of ersatz diseases, the DSM ... The categorization
of all drug use into either "medical use" or "abuse" is what makes such logical contortions
necessary. Drugs, considered scientifically, do not naturally fall out into the categories,
"medicine" and "drugs of abuse." As described in the digress in the ETFRC discussion of the
neuron, drugs naturally fall into three different kinds of categories ... chemical ...
pharmacodynamic ... and intentional ... The new fourth level of description, one may say the
"political-moral," added to the chemical, pharmacodynamic, and intentional categories that drugs
fall into is a cultural and political artifact, not a natural kind. Categorizing drugs as
"good" and "bad" is logically meaningless, and a rational understanding of drugs would reject
this simpleminded and worthless conceptual scheme."
In other words, the popular belief that illegal drugs are illegal because they're 'bad' and legal
drugs are legal because they're 'good' is totally false.
From the Health Sciences Institute e-Alert of September 4, 2003.
This is a quote from one of the HSI's medical panelists:
"... no drug companies design their drugs using mere brilliance. Pharmaceutical developers get
their ideas from herbal effects, then try to alter the molecule enough to patent the thing
(and cause all sorts of toxic side effects), hoping it'll still do what the herb did, without
killing you first."
If I read that correctly, it suggests to me that the way pharmaceutical companies make their
money is to take something natural that already produces the desired result, but which they
can't make any money out of, and tamper with it until they've got something they can make
money out of - something that's sufficiently distinguishable from the original to be patented
- only it's then something UNnatural, so nobody really knows if it will be effective or not,
or if it will turn out to be a little too unfriendly to the human body. And, of course, it can
never be as good, anyway, as the natural solution that already existed in the first place.
Hmmm... Nice one.
This quote from an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Vol.
287, 1st May, 2002, is not exactly reassuring, either.
"It has long been known that the side effects of new drugs are only revealed by long term use
by the general community. Short term clinical trials involving a few chosen participants do not
necessarily reflect the long term effects in the wider community. The real clinical trials do not
begin until new drugs are marketed in the general community, although patients may not be aware
In other words, if you're taking any drugs that have just come on to the market - congratulations,
you're a guinea pig!
From Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery?
by Lawrence Stevens, J.D.
"It is often asserted that taking a psychiatric drug is like taking insulin for diabetes.
Although psychiatric drugs are taken continuously, as is insulin - it's an absurd analogy.
Diabetes is a disease with a known physical cause. No physical cause has been found for
any of today's so-called mental illnesses. The mode of action of insulin is known: It is
a hormone that instructs or causes cells to uptake dietary glucose (sugar). In contrast,
the modes of action of psychiatry's drugs are unknown - although advocates of psychiatric
drugs as well as critics theorize they prevent normal brain functioning by blocking
neuroreceptors in the brain. If this theory is correct it is another contrast between
taking insulin and taking a psychiatric drug: Insulin restores a normal biological
function, namely, normal glucose (or sugar) metabolism. Psychiatric drugs interfere
with a normal biological function, namely, normal neuroreceptor functioning. Insulin is
a hormone that is found naturally in the body. Psychiatry's drugs are not normally found
in the body. Insulin gives a diabetic's body a capability it would not have in the
absence of insulin, namely, the ability to metabolize dietary sugar normally. Psychiatric
drugs have an opposite kind of effect: They take away (mental) capabilities the person
would have in the absence of the drug. Insulin affects the body rather than mind.
Psychiatric drugs disable the brain and hence the mind, the mind being the essence of the
Here's a short but telling article on that last point:
Why Psychiatric Drugs Are Always Bad
by Douglas C. Smith, M.D.
I no longer recommend psychiatric medications to anyone.
This seems radical in this country because we are in the midst of the "biological
revolution." Everyone seems to assume medications are specifically effective for
various mental illnesses which are at least in part chemical or genetic in origin. I
believe the science behind this is seriously flawed. It is based on false assumptions
that lead to self-perpetuating mythology (and huge profits for drug companies).
I first gave up on tranquilizers, then antidepressants, then all psychiatric drugs. I
learned that there are certain general principles that govern all psychoactive substances
and biologic treatments.
(1) "Mental illnesses," even severe ones, are relational (I'd say spiritual as well).
Psychiatry, by focusing almost exclusively on biology, is making itself increasingly
(2) Psychoactive substances provide at best, temporary relief, but always make things
worse in the long run. They make things worse directly (chemically) and indirectly by
distracting from the real issues.
(3) All psychoactive substances have rebound and withdrawal-related problems. "Relapse"
rates, in general, during withdrawal from psychiatric drugs, are about 10 times higher
than would be expected if the drug had never been taken.
(4) "All biopsychiatric treatments share a common mode of action -- the disruption of
normal brain function" (Peter Breggin, M.D., Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry,
Springer Pub. Co., 1997, p. 3). Drugs never correct imbalances. They never improve the
brain. They "work" by impairing the brain and dampening feelings in various ways.
The Author, Douglas C. Smith, M.D., graduated from Indiana University (1982 - Phi Beta
Kappa) and Indiana University School of Medicine (1986) and completed his psychiatry
training in 1990 and is board certified in psychiatry. He also has had additional
training in psychoanalysis. He currently lives and practices in Juneau, Alaska. He is
on the board of the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy and the
International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. This article is from
Dr. Smith's website: http://www.skepticalpsych.com
And finally ...
From Drugging Our Kids, The New American, August 25, 2003
"Advocates for the forced medication of schoolchildren diagnosed with ADHD and similar dubious
maladies are unapologetic about the use of such totalitarian methods. "Its becoming increasingly
clear that this is a powerful treatment that can be life-saving for some children," insists Peter
Jensen, a board member of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD), which advocates
the use of Ritalin and similar drugs. "This is going to be happening more and more," he promises.
Dr. Jensen, whose high-profile advocacy earned him the sobriquet "Mr. ADHD," does believe, however,
that there are a few parents whose judgement can be trusted when they refuse to drug their children.
Speaking at a gathering of psychologists in December 2001, Dr. Jensen emphasized that "medication
is not the only effective nor ... the best treatment option for every child," reported the Monitor
on Psychology. "When his own child was diagnosed with ADHD, Jensen told the audience, he and his wife
opted not to use medication.""
What a stroke of good fortune for Dr. and Mrs. Jensen that they happen to be amongst the elite
"few parents whose judgement can be trusted".
Lucky for their child, too.