September 26, 2002
Committee on House Government Reform
Thank you Congressman Burton and Committee Members for the opportunity to address this Hearing.
I am speaking to you today as a mother of thirteen years, one who is intimately familiar with the unique and very special bond between a mother and her children.
However, I am also a mother who has repeatedly seen that bond seriously threatened as more and more parents have been convinced that their child's creative endeavors, their enthusiastic energy, their misbehavior, or perhaps even their disillusionment with school, is a "mental disorder" which cries out for a "chemical fix."
As a strong supporter of literacy for children, I am aware of the power of workable literacy training, even for children who have been convinced that they suffer from some supposed brain-based learning disorder or chemical imbalance which requires heavy drugging. Far too often, when sufficient time was spent teaching them true educational basics, including how to read, their so-called "learning disorder" disappeared. I have spoken to children who have been forced to take a cocaine-like stimulant to control their behavior; I have shared their sense of sheer desperation. To see a child suffer a drug-induced psychotic break is not something one easily forgets.
I know of children who could have easily been labeled with "Attention Deficit Disorder" or ADHD sufferers, who were found to be suffering from nothing else than the toxic effects of chemicals in their environment.
I find it alarming that in my 13 years of motherhood, the use of Ritalin for ADHD has increased 700 percent. Today, it is estimated that between six and eight million American children take psychiatric drugs for ADHD and other so-called learning and behavioral disorders. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that validates these as diseases in the same way that medical diseases can be.
Today, more than 20 million prescriptions for stimulants are written each year. Prescriptions for one stimulant, Adderal, increased 1,017 percent since 1997.
The list of possible side effects of Ritalin alone includes nervousness, loss of appetite, weight loss, manic behavior and a potential for future drug dependence. Even the manufacturer of the drug warns that "frank psychotic episodes can occur" with abuse. Suicide is the major complication of withdrawal from Ritalin and similar drugs.
Some 1.5 million children and teenagers are now prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. The possible side effects of these drugs include anxiety, agitation, insomnia, bizarre dreams, suicidal thoughts, hostility and violent behavior.
Between 1988 and 1992, there were Food and Drug Administration drug adverse reaction reports of 90 children and adolescents who had suffered suicidal or violent self-destructive behavior while on one antidepressant.
In February 2000, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed the number of American children between two and four years of age who had been given psychiatric drugs, including antidepressants, had soared 50% between 1991 and 1995.
Yet, now a peppermint flavored antidepressant is on the market as an added incentive for children.
And with ADHD increasingly under fire in the media and the community, parents are told that their child may not have ADHD after all, but so-called "bipolar disorder." The symptoms of this new affliction include "poor handwriting," "difficulty organizing tasks," "complains of being bored," "is very creative," "is willful," has "difficulty getting up in the morning," has trouble "concentrating in school," "argues with adults," and is "easily distracted."
These "symptoms" are no less subjective than those listed for ADHD. It seems that every childhood activity or protest in life is being redefined as a mental disease.
But there is much more to this alarming situation than just an expanding list of child mental illnesses and skyrocketing drug consumption.
Teenagers on powerful psychiatric drugs committed more than half of the recent teenage shooting sprees, resulting in 19 deaths and 51 wounded.
Government funds now permit parents, such as those testifying here today, to be coerced and threatened if they reject a questionable psychiatric diagnosis and refuse to put their child on mind-altering drugs.
Children have been wrenched from their family's care simply because their parents favored an alternative, drug-free approach to addressing educational and behavioral problems. The psychotropic drugging of millions of children has to stop.
It is a tragedy that some parents have been forced to resort to legal action to protect their children's and their own parental rights to be free of such coercion!
Meanwhile in our classrooms, our teachers have been co-opted into administering mental diagnostic tests to determine whether students are "hyperactive" or "bipolar." In fact, laws have had to be passed, for example in Connecticut, and one introduced in New York, to prevent teachers coercing parents into drugging their children.
These are just a few aspects of what I believe will one day be widely recognized as the totally needless and tragic drugging of innocent children.
I am not saying that children don't have problems, that they don't need special attention, or that parents cannot reach their wits end when all recommended solutions to their child's behavior have failed.
What I do want to emphasize here today though, is that only by looking for alternatives to drugs will parents discover for themselves the numerous simple, workable and drug-free answers to the problems of attention, behavior and learning.
The common denominator is correct diagnosis. A child could have allergies, lead toxicity, eyesight or hearing problems, be simply in need of tutoring, or something even more basic than that—phonics. The list of possible causes is very long and well-documented, but such child life-saving information has in effect been increasingly denied to, or hidden from the view of parents and others. This is a violation of their right to "informed consent."
Instead of supporting what is legal drug pushing, our governments, schools and doctors must ensure that all—not carefully selected—information is made available to parents in order for them to make an informed choice about their child's educational and medical needs.
In 1995 and 1997, the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board said that governments needed to "...exercise vigilance" in order to prevent the overdiagnosing of Attention Deficit Disorder and its "medically unjustified treatment." I want to take this opportunity of thanking the Committee for its vigilance.
However, since 1997, the number of children put on psychotropic drugs has almost doubled. America now accounts for 90% of the world's Ritalin consumption. Clearly, much more than vigilance is needed.
My hope is that this Committee will successfully and continually work to ensure that any legislation governing the mental health or education of our children, provides parents with full information about the available diagnostic and treatment alternatives to child drugging in the true spirit of "informed consent."
We must love, educate and take proper care of the physical health of our children, and refuse to allow them to be falsely labeled as mentally ill and then be continuously drugged when there may very likely be a simple cause and solution for their problem. We will not achieve this without the broadly-informed support of our governments, our citizens and our parents.