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We are playing Russian Roulette
with our children -- and our future.

by Charles Mears

At this very moment at least 6,000,000 U.S. school children are being administered Ritalin or other addictive, mind-altering, psychiatric drugs. In some schools, the percentage is higher than 20% -- and the percentage is going up.

In a country where there is a huge public outcry against the use of street drugs by our children, our public schools are quietly drugging children by the millions.

The psychiatrists tell us that this wholesale drugging of our children is required to treat learning disabilities such as hyperactivity and ADHD and ADD. A careful inspection will reveal that there are no objective standards for these supposed learning disabilities, that they are entirely a matter of a psychiatrist's (or a teacher's) opinion, that the types of "symptoms" utilized for diagnosis are typical behaviors of children. Here's a partial list from the psychiatrist's diagnostic bible, the DSM-IV:

  • fails to give close attention to details
  • short attention span
  • often does not finish tasks
  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • is easily distracted
  • fidgetting or squirming in their seat
  • playing loudly
  • is often "on the go"
  • often talks excessively
  • has difficulty waiting turn

We are labeling and drugging our children for being children. And we seem to be specifically targeting the children who are more active.

The diagnoses verge on the ridiculous. Did you know that "Stuttering" is a mental disorder? Did you know that a student who has trouble with math has a "Mathematics Disorder" or that a child who has trouble writing has a "Disorder of Written Expression"? According to the DSM-IV, these are all mental diseases stemming from malfunctions of the brain, and as such require the administration of psychiatric drugs. Does this make sense to you?

And what of these drugs? Take Ritalin, the most commonly prescribed drug for children. The psychiatrists tell us that Ritalin is safe. Yet, according to the Physician's Desk Reference 1998, side effects can include (a partial list):

  • nervousness
  • inability to sleep
  • anorexia
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • speeded-up heartbeat
  • weight loss
  • severe depression (during drug withdrawal)
  • drug dependence
  • psychotic episodes

The PDR specifically recommends against using Ritalin for children who are already anxious, tense, or agitated, "since the drug may aggravate these symptoms". It particularly proscribes its use for children who already have depression or "behavior disturbance and thought disorder", since it can make those conditions worse.

Does this sound like the sort of substance that should be given to millions of children? Virtually any one of the many possible side effects listed above is worse than the condition they're supposed to treat. Based on this information, would you want your child or grandchild to be labeled with a mental disease and given ritalin?

Everyone knows about the alarming decline in educational test scores in America. This decline is paralleled by the increase in ADD-type diagnoses and the consequent administration of psychiatric drugs. Should it really surprise us that children who are drugged do not do as well in school?

But declining educational statistics aren't the only indication that something is amiss. Teen suicides have at least tripled since 1960. And what about the alarming increase of senseless violence in our schools? Despite the reluctance of school authorities and family to reveal personal details about the children committing such senseless acts of violence, it has nevertheless leaked out that many of them have been under psychiatric treatment or receiving psychiatric drugs? Eric Harris and Kip Kinkel are just two of the more notable examples. The psychiatrists would tell us that those two children were taking powerful, mind-altering drugs as the cure for a mental disease, but isn't it just as likely that it was the drugs themselves that pushed them over the edge?

We are playing Russian Roulette with our children. Isn't it about time we started asking some of the tough questions? Just this last week a child in Florida was sentenced to 28 years in prison for killing a school teacher. Could it be that he was under the influence of psychiatric drugs at the time? Isn't this something we need to find out?

Published in In Motion Magazine August 7, 2001.

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