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Drugging Our Children To Death

Labeling a child, ‘mentally ill,’ is like hanging a sign around his or her neck saying, ‘GARBAGE: Take It Away.’” Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry.

Along the smoke-free lanes and carefree byways of Calabasas and far across
American suburbia, a river of drugs is flowing, and I am not talking illegal ones.


Not too long ago, I was driving my sixteen year old son, Harry, and his best friend, Tommy, home from school, Tommy reminiscing on his short-lived encounter with Ritalin. He was twelve years old when he was prescribed Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.


“It was creepy,” he said. “I could totally just sit in my chair and stare at the teacher for hours and I could hear every single word, like in slow motion. That’s how it is - you can concentrate on stupid tasks but you’re not really there inside yourself. It’s as if something else is controlling you. It was horrible. I started pretending to take my pills but wouldn’t. Eventually I told my mom I didn’t want to do it anymore and she stopped it.”


Harry said, “Didn’t those doctors think about what would happen when they dumped a ton of drugs on us? Are they really so stupid to think we’ll just ‘follow orders?’ Mostly everyone I know pretends to take their pills but sells them. It’s crazy.”


The “War on Drugs” is alive and well in LA suburbia - but not in the way most people think. The real war is being waged by mega-drug companies, each vying to make the biggest profit in an industry worth billions with no concern for the long-term consequences on the human guinea pigs - our children. Academics determine through research funded by the drug companies that the public is suffering from these terrible mental diseases and psychiatrists, in turn, prescribe the medications developed by the drug companies. A tidy circle of profit ensues. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer at the division of medical ethics at Harvard School of Medicine and former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine states that “…there is fairly good evidence that the research has been tainted because of the financial relationships between academic researchers and drug companies.”


Powerful, highly addictive drugs are now being marketed directly to families through Stepford Wives-like TV and magazine ads, showing smiling, sedated children and their equally smiling and sedated parents happily ingesting their “medication.”


I remember overhearing one girl telling another, “I don’t wanna be an ‘ad kid.’” I asked what she meant.


“Oh, you know, those kids who go around campus saying ‘I’m on Zoloft, I’m so happy…I’m on Zoloft, I’m so happy.’ I don’t wanna be an ad for a drug company.”


Another girl responded, “Oh yeah, I tried Zoloft. It turned everything gray. The world went gray. I was sick for two days, puking.”


Any day of the week, I can overhear jokes and comments like that. The other morning I was sitting with my fourteen year-old son, Max, and two girls, eighteen year old Kashmir and fifteen year-old Andrea. The topic turned to drugs. As I stated in my first essay, I am not interested in listing impersonal government statistics, I am writing about what really happens in my neighborhood. I am writing about the honest, straightforward perceptions of our youth and the ways in which they figure out their world. I asked these kids what they thought was the biggest difference between the drug situation in Calabasas and South Central - where is it worse? They immediately said Calabasas.


Kashmir, “You can get anything here. Everybody’s dad or mom is a doctor or a lawyer or a psychiatrist and they all have money. Prescription drugs, being mentally sick, going to therapy, it’s the new fad. So everybody’s either taking pills, selling or both. The ‘experts’ think we’re idiots. But we know how to get information on every subject on earth - we Google it. We know which drugs are used for which effect and what the active ingredients are.”


She took a drag off her legal drug of choice - a cigarette (we weren’t in Calabasas, by the way, we were sitting outside a Starbucks in Woodland Hills where it’s still okay to pollute the air with tobacco) and pointed her cigarette at me sagely. “You know what scares me? Twelve year olds, they’re the scariest people on earth. I’d rather meet a Crip in Compton than a twelve year old in Calabasas. They’re so shady, little corporate monsters in the making. Oh, the “just say no” campaign? They test the potheads and expel them - in the meantime, all the nerds are zoned out of their minds - but hey, it’s okay, because it’s legal drugs.”


“So what’s going on?” I asked. “Do you think everyone needs these drugs?”


Max, “It’s a scam. They’re turning kids into zombies.”


I thought about that for a minute and I had to agree. We are taking away moral responsibility and telling children they can’t help their behavior because they have a mental disease. An important part of growing up is learning, often most painfully, to make moral choices. Puberty is an agonizing time with hormones constantly triggering confusing reversals in emotions. I remember falling in and out of love, wanting to die one day and feeling euphoric the next. I fainted if the doctor gave me a shot. If I heard about a disease, I thought I had it. When the dentist told me that my bottom jaw was growing too fast and I needed braces, I couldn’t sleep at night because I literally believed that I’d wake up in the morning and find my jaw sticking out across the room. I had to learn how to control my wild emotions, as well as my over-active imagination, not give up on even trying. The whole concept of Free Will and Moral Choice is being thrown out the window and replaced by a mind-numbing passivity. Pain, sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy, these are all normal emotions that teenagers - and adults - should expect to feel. We don’t need to be “happy” all the time.


Kashmir, “Like, this is what you do. You go to your therapist and fake something (because everyone has a therapist, right?). Like Brandon, he’s a fake. He got grounded for two months. His parents were gonna send him away, have someone come in the night and drag him out and put him in one of those Nazi concentration camps in the middle of Utah or somewhere where they can do whatever they want to you without any regulations. So, Brandon said he was hearing voices telling him to kill people. That got his parents attention. They sent him to a psychologist. He told the doc, I got something against the number 3. The doc said, what do you mean? He said, well, see that filing cabinet there? I’ve been looking at it for the past twenty minutes and it has three folders in it. It’s making me nervous. End result - Brandon got put on medication and he’s been selling it ever since.”


Andrea, “I don’t fake my problems. I take Wellbutrin for depression and Trazodone for anxiety and anger. I’ve been hospitalized twice - once I tried to commit suicide. I saved up and took 23 pills at once. They said when they got to me that I was two minutes away from being dead.”


As I write this essay, I just looked up the official Wellbutrin site on the internet and it warns that it is “approved only for adults 18 years and over. In some children, teens, and young adults, antidepressants increase suicidal thoughts or actions.” Andrea, as I said, is fifteen.


“So what do you think of the meds?” I asked.


“I hate it. I feel like a rat in a cage, an experiment. They put me on something and then, if it doesn’t work, they put me on something else. They don’t know what they’re doing. I feel like other people are controlling me and I can never learn to control myself. My adoptive mom had her leg amputated last year and my dad has hepatitis C, so you can’t say I don’t have issues. You can see I’m overweight - hello! I get made fun of. Kids throw food at me; I can’t describe how bad every day of my life is at school. I got anger issues - I don’t need to be an expert to figure that out. But nobody helps me deal with it. They just put me on meds.”


I couldn’t help but contrast Andrea’s mental illness with her father’s physical one. Objective criteria were used to determine that he had Hepatitis C and a drug prescribed to ease the condition. However, there are no objective criteria determining whether or not Andrea has a mental illness. I quote Thomas Szazs here, as I am unabashedly a big fan of his, “it is not reasonable to ask whether an antipsychotic drug, say Zyprexa, is effective against schizophrenia, because there are no objective criteria to determine whether a person has or does not have this alleged disorder. This is why it is futile to debate whether one or another psychotropic drug ‘works.’”


What are all these medications that are being given to our children and what are the behaviors indicating that a child needs them? A November 16, 2008 article in the Los Angeles Times by Christopher Lane titled “Wrangling Over Psychiatry’s Bible,” talks about the unchecked power of the American Psychiatric Association to secretly convene without any oversight and create new mental illnesses, which people can then be told are valid diseases that they are suffering from, requiring medication. Some of the new ones up for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders are “Apathy Disorder,” “Parental Alienation Syndrome,” “Compulsive Buying Disorder,” “Internet Addiction,” and “Relational Disorder.” Where is the end of this?


Mostly, our children are being diagnosed with ADHD. I will interject two statistics here, because they are so telling: The number of children, in America (because this disease has yet to hit it big in other countries) ages 15 to 19 taking medication for ADHD has increased by 311 percent over 15 years. The use of medication to treat children between the ages of 5 and 14 also increased by approximately 170 percent. (www.education-world.com)


So what exactly is ADHD and how is it identified in children? The description below is likely to send an overwrought parent running for the medicine cabinet:


He entered the church, now, with a swarm of clean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started a quarrel with the first boy that came handy. The teacher, a grave, elderly man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and [he] pulled a boy’s hair in the next bench, and was absorbed in his book when the boy turned around; stuck a pin in another boy, presently, in order to hear him say “Ouch!” and got a new reprimand from his teacher. [His] whole class [was] of a pattern — restless, noisy, and troublesome. When they came to recite their lessons, the latter third of the speech was marred by the resumption of fights and other recreations among certain of the bad boys, and by fidgetings and whisperings that extended far and wide. Not one of them knew his verses perfectly, but had to be prompted all along.”


Who is this frightening example of ADHD? Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer; the most well-loved example of precocious boyhood behavior in American literature. Nowadays you can be sure that Tom would be put on Ritalin and all that naturally impulsive inquisitiveness that made Aunt Polly throw up her hands in despair would be destroyed. Or, perhaps Tom would be prescribed a newer drug such as Strattera, which comes with a seemingly endless list of side-effects (as they all do), such as suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, aggressiveness, mania, liver damage, and impotence. Incredibly, according to Strattera’s own label, the drug company Eli Lilly received FDA approval after submitting a mere six clinical trials on 759 children and 536 adults for six to nine weeks.


“Patients” like Tom Sawyer are being told ADHD is a “disease” and they are being coerced to take medication. If they don’t, Social Services have the power to remove them from their families and put them in foster care or mental institutions.


These toxic pills have the effect of chemically straight-jacketing children, just as kids like Andrea and Tommy have described. Where did the idea of the straightjacket originate? Because I would like to humbly point out that, as a parent, I believe my children’s brains are important enough for me to want to know the history of how this mental straight-jacketing came into being.


Straightjackets were first introduced at the turn of the century, along with electric shock, hosing down, shackles, lobotomy and holes being drilled into brains to relieve “brain pressure.” German physicians gave birth to the idea of mental diseases of the brain, lending credence to the idea of treating it in the same way one might treat a physical disease. Psychiatry and the German State worked together to institutionalize those with “damaged minds,” which is really a form of the elite engineering eugenics on an unsuspecting public. As Dr. Szasz says, “The evil genius of psychiatry… continues to lie in its ability to convince itself, the legal system, and the public that…there is no conflict between the legitimate interests of the individual and the legitimate interests of the political class in charge of the state.”


Carl Wernicke (1848-1905), a prominent nineteenth-century German neuropsychiatrist observed, “The medical treatment of [mental] patients began with the infringement of their personal freedom.” This started with the abuses described above, as well as other “benevolent tortures,” such as frightening patients by throwing them into snake pits, the origin of the term “snake pit” for insane asylum. These horrific restraints were precursors to the current drugs.


The methods of restraint are now so much more humane than in the past: little pills. But what are in these pills? The only major difference between giving a child illegal cocaine or legal Ritalin is that you have to give the child a greater dose of cocaine than Ritalin to achieve the same result. Certainly, the child appears quieter and sits still in a chair for hours on end - something that our school system demands. But I ask you, what child in his or her right mind should want to, or should be forced to, sit for hours every day in a chair doing sheet after sheet of boring, rote paperwork and being given countless “standardized tests” to evaluate “success or failure?” Children who rebel against sitting like this (often the brightest and most individual thinkers) but nevertheless are forced to, due to a chemical straightjacket, are not attentive - they are zoned out, their developing brains bombarded by drugs that even the psychiatrists admit they don’t understand.


It was in 1973 that the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which includes the National Institute of Mental Health, created the Special Education Program for children with “learning disabilities.” This gave birth to a whole new army of experts who had to be trained and employed and as such, had to justify their employment by identifying a certain number of Special Needs students in each school - because for every Special Needs child, the government provides extra funding. In 1991, teachers were mandated to “actively seek to identify ADHD children.”


Surely, one would think that with this epidemic hitting American children, science has a stringent objective test to clearly identify the ADHD child. This is absolutely not the case. Here is an example of how ridiculous the identifying methods are. Fidgetiness, such as that expressed by Tom Sawyer and his mates, seems to be of special interest to modern psychiatrists as a means of identifying those with ADHD. University of Utah Psychiatrist Paul Wender, known as the Dean of ADHD, suggests that an excellent way for laymen, such as teachers and co-workers, to make a diagnosis of ADHD is to check for fidgetiness—-and a perfect way to test for this is to observe whether or not the subject has “restless feet.” He states:


Since restless feet are readily observed - in cafeterias, waiting rooms and group meetings - the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity (of hyperactivity)…could be rapidly tested in such areas by inquiry about individual and family history of, say, alcoholism, academic achievement, and imprisonment in a random sample of those with jiggling and stationary feet.” (http://www.sntp.net/ritalin/ritalin_myth.html)


After offering this ridiculously subjective diagnostic method, this same learned Dean of ADHD states in the July 1,1996, Psychiatric Times that , “We cannot meaningfully determine how sensitive and specific our criteria for ADHD are because we do not have any means of determining whether an individual patient ‘really’ has the disorder.” (Emphasis mine.)


Incredibly, he goes on to conclude this contradictory discourse by saying: “ADHD is a common, genetically transmitted disorder. It is usually undiagnosed but fairly easily diagnosed.”


Do not imagine that just because this man uses impressive sounding words and he has a bunch of letters after his name he is making any sense. What he is saying makes no sense at all. Yet he is revered as an expert and heaven help the ignorant parent who dares to question his authority. Well, I have jiggling feet (in fact, they are jiggling right now as I write), my brother, a philosophy professor, has jiggling feet, my son Max has jiggling feet. Clearly, we should be concerned about our ability to function in society and our propensity towards alcoholism and imprisonment. Max, who is somewhat of a kidder, when reprimanded in school to stop jiggling his feet, told his teacher that he had “restless leg syndrome” and had “forgotten to take his medication.” This was not considered funny by his teacher - which is one of the many reasons why he is no longer in public school. ortunately, his teacher in his charter school has a much better sense of humor.


I was blessed to grow up in a family where reason was extolled by my parents and there was never an excuse for bad behavior. It was accepted that children would do wrong. The important thing was to take responsibility, learn from the experience and do better next time. My dad is a Christian writer, and as a child we traveled the world so he could gain inspiration for his books.


For a time, we lived in a small village in Switzerland and our parents made us attend the village school, an experience that we kids strongly objected to but that they, in their wisdom, knew would be good for us. That school bore a striking similarity to the school described by Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer. My teacher, Madame Petriquin, was an elderly woman who seriously looked like a conglomeration of all Disney’s ugliest witches rolled into one. Her favorite forms of discipline were vicious kicks and ear twists. All of the kids were boisterous and regularly misbehaved. But when Madame yelled - and I mean yelled - quiet descended, except for two boys who, no matter what, continued their bad behavior. My sister and I even nicknamed one of them Tom Sawyer and the other Huck Finn. At recess, the teachers (there were only two of them) locked themselves in their rooms for a much-needed break, while the kids ran wild outside - and I mean wild. They were impulsive, mischievous and down-right wicked. I learned quickly not to stand at the top of the stairs or I would get pushed down. One small kid named Jean Pierre liked to jump on my back and pull my hair so hard I was sure he would pull it all out. No one would help me. They all just stood around enjoying my humiliation. I hated that little kid and I dreaded him. I did not know why he had singled me out for punishment or how to make him stop.


One day, I was drawing with some colored pencils my mom had given me when Jean Pierre sidled up. I tensed, prepared to defend myself. But he sat down beside me and reached out politely, asking, I assumed, if he could draw too. We proceeded to sit together in perfect harmony, drawing. I then did something that I would have not thought possible before that moment. I gave him the pencils to keep. His impish face lit up with happiness and after that day, I never had another problem with Jean Pierre. We became fast friends. A little experimentation in the art of negotiation, a little attempt at communication and understanding went a long way towards bridging what had seemed to be an impassable gulf. I had assumed that Jean Pierre was insane - that they were all insane. But they weren’t. They were normal kids who were running wilder than I was used to. I have no doubt that they all grew up and became at least somewhat more sedate, having learned the important lessons they were supposed to learn on the playground.


Putting children on medication deprives them of the vital experience of learning how to face challenges and overcome them. I have talked to young people in their twenties who were on medication as children and express exactly this sentiment - that they never felt like they grew up, they never felt like they learned how to be strong inside themselves and face challenges on their own.


The American public has been coerced into accepting as normal the experimentation on and the mental straight-jacketing of their children with mind-altering drugs. Psychiatry, supported by the government and the pharmaceutical companies, has managed to do this by leading the public to believe that mental illness is a disease like any other, making imprisoning children through a mental straightjacket acceptable. This is a lie.


Since speaking with Andrea last week she has again attempted suicide and has been institutionalized. It might seem like strong language but I totally agree with Dr. Szazs when he says, “Coerced drugging is a form of ‘therapeutic’ rape.”


Some quotes by Thomas Szasz at www.szasz.com:

Although we may not know it, we have, in our day,
witnessed the birth of the Therapeutic State.”

Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry: An Inquiry Into the Social Uses of Mental Health Practices, by Thomas Szasz, (New York: Macmillan, 1963, p. 212; Chapter 18, title: “Toward the Therapeutic State.”).

If you talk to God, you are praying;
If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.”

The Second Sin, by Thomas Szasz, (Anchor/Doubleday, Garden City, NY. 1973, Page 113.)

A good read: “Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness,” by Christopher Lane, professor of English at Northwestern University.

Sites to look at and used for this essay: National Alliance Against Mandated Mental Health; Project Censored; StoptheDrugWar.com; Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (this site lists the children that have died as a result of abuse I residential treatment facilities); sntp.net (Say NO to Psychiatry); “The Myth of Attention Deficit Disorder” by Dr. Mark Barber; July 1996 Psychiatric Times, Vol. 13, No. 7;


Karen Hunt is the author of nineteen children’s books including the recently published, best-selling “The Rumpoles & The Barleys” series. She is the co-founder of InsideOUT Writers, www.insideoutwriters.org, founder of Wordpower, and has twelve years of experience helping incarcerated youth to express their ideas through creative writing. Currently, she is writing “Falling,” the first book in the “Night Angels” series about a group of enlightened, misfit teenage vampires fighting against the Undead in Los Angeles, published with Townsend Press. You can find out more about Karen at: www.karenalainehunt.com.

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This is a very complex subject altogether.

I suspect that if it were revealed who was really in the pay of whom on this planet, we should find that those in control of drug companies (not the people running them) are pretty well in charge and that the lust for power, however insane, rules. To pursue this would mean we were convicted of paranoia before we had begun.

What really concerns me is how our respective 'Nanny' Continents have taught us that we have an automatic right to a life that is painless, stress-free and happy. We don't. The first thing our children need to learn is that life isn't fair. But we're going to beat it, we're going to survive, we're going to become stronger and more tolerant and compassionate individuals because of it. It doesn't mean we give up on trying to redress injustice; it means that our efforts will be more community-spirited and less self-interested.

The other day, I had a very minor procedure at my local health centre. The doctor who supervised is an excellent woman, conscientious, approachable, empathetic. She spent several minutes explaining what it would be like and how it would feel. I couldn't help thinking: but I've cheated death more than once - I'm a mother - way back I endured years of crippling migraines - tomorrow I could choke on a sandwich!

What have we become?

Thanks for the blog.

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I agree.WE are drugging our kids too much. I have adult ADHD and I ahve never taken ritalin.I just avoid going into large stores like K-Mart, or being in large crowds of people.I tell everyone I dont multi task. if too much information is coming in I yell "stop" and retreat to a quiet corner of the room.There are coping strategies,and when I was in school ADHD was unheard of.
Could it be that we are overstimulating our kids? Cuild tv and computer games be the culprit?? coould it be we are overscheduling our kids with activities every day so they have no opportunity to just go outside and play?
Thanks for a thought provoking blog!

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Did I understand?

Are you saying that teens who are prescribed Ritalin are pretending to take it but are not doing so because it makes them feel terrible? Are you also saying that they then sell the
Ritalin to teens for whom it is not prescribed because these kids, who do not need Ritalin, love the drug? Is it only this second group who becomes addicted to the drug?

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drugging our children to death

Hi Sue,

I'm saying that all kinds of unpredictable things happen when drugs become readily available to children.  

Karen Hunt www.karenalainehunt.com