In many parts of Australia, there are few families and teachers whose lives have not been interrupted by the prescription of mind-altering drugs to children. The information provided here has been drawn from many sources and is only a fraction of the available knowledge. It is provided so that parents, guardians and others can become more informed and so be more fully able to provide informed consent for any ADHD treatment proposed by any mental health practitioner for their children or themselves.
In Australia the most often prescribed ADHD drugs, Ritalin, methylphenidate (generic form of Ritalin) and dexamphetamine are Schedule 8 drugs. This means they are classed in the same category as cocaine, opium and morphine. This category is labelled “controlled drugs” to reduce misuse and dependence.
The stimulant prescription rate for Australian children increased 34-fold in the past two decades. In addition to this more than 40,000 Australian children are on antidepressants and antipsychotics, some for ADHD including Strattera. Strattera is an antidepressant marketed as an ADHD drug with the strongest warning that can be placed on a drug in Australia, a “Boxed Warning” to warn of suicidal behaviour.
- In the U.S., ADHD drugs are prescribed to at least 6 million children for supposedly educational reasons; 2 million children take antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.
- In Britain, the rate increased 9,200% between 1992 and 2000.
- Between 1993 and 2001, methylphenidate (generic form of Ritalin) sales in Mexico increased 800%.
- German methylphenidate sales increased 400% between 1995 and 1999.
- Significant increases are also reported in France, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Commonly, a psychiatrist or psychologist tells parents that their child suffers from a Learning Disorder (LD) – also labelled Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or most often today, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “Brain disease” or a “chemical imbalance” of the brain may also be mentioned, but parents are usually told that this is a well-recognized “medical problem” demanding continuous, prescribed medication. Look, research and decide for yourself. Ask for the evidence that this is so and ask for tests to prove it. Unlike medicine, there is no scientific basis for any of these “psychiatric disorders.”
Dr. Joe Kosterich, former Federal Chairman of the General Practitioners’ Council of the Australian Medical Association, said, “The diagnosis of ADD is entirely subjective....There is no test. It is just down to interpretation. Maybe a child blurts out in class or doesn’t sit still. The lines between an ADD sufferer and a healthy exuberant kid can be very blurred.”
In October 2004, The Western Australian Government completed their Inquiry into ADHD. One of their findings stated: “There are no tests that identify the existence of ADHD in a biological sense.”
The ADHD scientific “discovery” process was literally a vote by a show of hands at an American Psychiatric Association (APA) Committee meeting in 1987. After it was inserted into the American Psychiatric Association’s billing bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), within one year, 500,000 American children were diagnosed as ADHD sufferers.
In Australia the DSM is the primary reference used in the diagnosis of ADHD and other “psychiatric disorders.” The alliance between the American Psychiatric Association, inventing disorders and putting them into the DSM for which drug companies make drugs and then apply to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA- Australia’s drug regulatory agency) for their use in Australia is placing Australian children at risk.
Despite the total lack of objective proof of its existence, millions of children world wide have been harmed through the use of this diagnosis. Today in Australia over 57 thousand children are taking mind-altering ADHD drugs because of no more than an “expert’s” ADHD opinion.
Dr Mary Anne Block, Author of No More ADHD says, “If there is no valid test for ADHD, no data proving ADHD is a brain dysfunction, no long-term studies of the drugs’ effects, and if the drugs do not improve academic performance or social skills and the drugs can cause compulsive and mood disorders and can lead to illicit drug use, why in the world are millions of children, teenagers and adults…being labelled with ADHD and prescribed these drugs?”
ADHD is a stigmatizing psychiatric label. Once labelled, a child is considered to have a psychiatric disorder, in fact to be mentally ill or diseased (euphemistically expressed as mentally disordered). This label can negatively affect a child’s and others’ perceptions of himself/herself, both now and in the future.
There are many reasons why a child might be displaying behavioural or educational problems. Drugging can mask the real cause.
“The high proportion of young people with ADHD could be influenced by diagnostic definitions and by rubbery diagnostic criteria… Many of these diagnostic conditions for ADHD are just part of the normal spectrum of childhood behaviour.”
Foundation Professor in Developmental Disability Studies in the Faculties of Education and Medicine
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used in Australia, symptoms of ADHD include:
- Fails to give close attention to details or may make careless mistakes in schoolwork or other tasks; work is often messy or careless;
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities;
- Finds it hard to persist with tasks until completion; appears “as if their mind is elsewhere” or “as if they are not listening”;
- Fails “to complete schoolwork, chores, or other duties....”
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat;
- Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected;
- Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate;
- Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly; is often “on the go”; often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed;
- Has difficulty waiting his turn;
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
Joe Tucci, President of the Australian Childhood Foundation said when speaking about Australia’s Draft ADHD Guidelines ( not been finalised as of March 2011 due to conflicts of interest and subsequent congressional investigation in the US of psychiatrist whose studies were used to write Australia’s guidelines) , “It’s a dangerous to believe medication is the only answer”. And , “The guidelines could push drugs on children before exploring what else could be wrong. The symptoms of ADHD are also the symptoms of many other childhood experiences and by putting drugs as the first line treatment you are going to increase the reliance on medication.”
As previously mentioned Ritalin, methylphenidate and dexamphetamine are Schedule 8 drugs in Australia. So it is not surprising that the 2010 world landmark long-term Raine Study from Western Australia, found, “Stimulant medication use increased the odds of below-age-level academic achievement by a factor of 10 times” and dangerously increases the pressure between heart beats that could be fatal.
Anyone in Australia can report adverse reactions to drugs to The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Adverse Drug Reaction Reports to the TGA linked to ADHD drugs reveal there have already been 23 reports of suicidal behaviour/ideation in children and the sudden death of a 7 year old on Ritalin.
This does not represent the total number, as only a small percentage of adverse drug reactions are reported to the TGA. (In the U.S. during 2004-2008, there were 71 deaths in those under 18, including 17 suicides. However, this represents only between one and ten percent of the potential reports; therefore, deaths can only be much higher).
In April 2006, Australian authorities launched an immediate investigation into the safety of ADHD drugs following 400 adverse reactions linked to the drugs, involving children as young as three and four, after it was disclosed a 5 year old on Ritalin suffered a stroke and a 7 year old suddenly died while on Ritalin. As a result warnings have been strengthened for all ADHD drugs for cardiac problems and psychiatric episodes.
A 2005 Oregon Health and Science University Evidence-Based Practice Centre review of 2,287 studies – virtually every study ever conducted on ADHD drugs-determined that no trials had shown the effectiveness of stimulants and that there was a lack of evidence that they could affect “academic performance, risky behaviours, social achievements, etc.
Dutch Commission Finds Psychiatric Claim is False - ADHD is Not a Brain Disorder.
The Netherlands Advertisement Code Commission (Reclame Code Commissie) has ruled that the country's Brain Foundation cannot claim that the controversial psychiatric condition Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disease or brain dysfunction. The Commission ordered the Foundation to cease such false claims in their advertising.
In its decision handed down on 6th August 2002, the Advertisement Code Commission found that the Brain Foundation had falsely advertised and solicited funding by publishing ads in newspapers, magazines, flyers and on TV that stated ADHD is an “inherent brain dysfunction.”
The Advertisement Code Commission decision stated, “The information that the defendant presented gives no grounds for the definitive statement that ADHD is an inherent brain dysfunction…. Under the circumstances, the defendant has not been careful enough and the advertisement is misleading.”
In 1998, Dr. James Swanson asserted that the brains of ADHD subjects were, on average, 10% atrophic (smaller) compared to normal control subjects. He stated there were no ADHD studies in which the subjects were drug-naive—virtually all ADHD subjects had been on stimulant therapy. According to paediatric neurologist Dr. Fred A. Baughman, Jr., “This being the case, stimulant therapy, not ADHD, is the likely cause of the brain atrophy.”
Dr. Fred Baughman Jr paediatric neurologist who flew to Western Australia to give evidence at WA’s Tri-partisan Parliamentary Inquiry into ADHD in 2004, observes: “Once methylphenidate hydrochloride or any psychotropic drug courses through [a child’s] brain and body, they are, for the first time, physically, neurologically, and biologically abnormal.”
Indeed, as early as 1986, Henry A. Nasrallah and colleagues performed CT scans on 24 young men who had been treated for “hyperactivity” since childhood, and found “a significantly greater frequency of cerebral atrophy” in the hyperactive group than in controls. Noting that all of the hyperactive patients had been treated with psycho stimulants, the researchers suggested, “Cortical atrophy may be a long-term adverse effect of this treatment.”
Then in 1994, G.J. Wang and colleagues researched the effects of methylphenidate on the cerebral blood flow of five healthy males and reported “decrements in cerebral blood flow were homogenous throughout the brain and probably reflect the vasoactive properties of methylphenidate.” In plain English, the drug appears to cause blood vessels in the brain to constrict significantly.
A study published in 2002 in the American Medical Association by Castellanos etc al, claiming to prove that ADHD not Ritalin/amphetamine treatment was the cause of brain atrophy was investigated by Dr Baughman. He found that the control group was an average of 2.6 years older than the unmedicated group and said, “2.6 years older and bigger, having brains that are 2.6 years older and bigger than the brains of unmedicated subjects! Hardly a “matched’ control group!”
A close inspection of all ADHD theories reveals their unscientific nature.
“…[T]he search for a biological marker is doomed from the outset because of the contradictions and ambiguities of the diagnostic construct of ADHD as defined by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I liken the efforts to discover a marker to the search for the Holy Grail.”
Lawrence Diller, M.D. University of California
While “brain scans” purportedly show brain differences in the brains of “ADHD” children or sufferers of other mental ills, Dr. Fred Baughman, Jr. says the drugs the person has already taken probably caused the changes that appear to be in the brain. All drugs, whether cocaine, heroin or a psychiatric drug are brain altering.
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in September 2001 noted that although gross differences in size or symmetry of brain structures can be quantified with neuroimaging, individual cells and cell layers cannot yet be visualized. This means that, although the volume and shape of brain structures may be determined, the underlying cause of any differences cannot.
In other words, brain scan pictures are knowingly and fraudulently used by mental health experts to sell the idea of scientific evidence, and therefore justification, for the diagnosis of an ADHD disease or disorder.
Even the DSM itself states on page 88, “There are no laboratory tests, neurological assessments or attentional assessments that have been established as diagnostic in the clinical assessment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” This fact is rarely told to parents and teachers despite the DSM being the main manual used to diagnose ADHD in Australia and many checklists used by teachers and parents to screen children for ADHD are based on this manual.
If there were such verifiable brain scans, or in fact any medical/scientific test that could show a physical/medical abnormality for ADHD For indeed any psychiatric disorder, the public would be getting such tests prior to being administered psychiatric drugs.
“Let me clear this up right now. ADHD is not like diabetes and [the stimulant used for it] is not like insulin. Diabetes is a real medical condition that can be objectively diagnosed. ADHD is an invented label with no objective, valid means of identification. Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the body and it is essential for life. [This stimulant] is a chemically derived amphetamine-like drug that is not necessary for life. Diabetes is an insulin deficiency. Attention and behavioral problems are not a [stimulant] deficiency.”
Dr. Mary Ann Block Author, No More ADHD
Psychiatrists argue that ADHD requires “medication” in the same way that diabetes requires insulin treatment; they further argue that to deny children such “medication” would be like denying insulin to a diabetic. The analogy is false.
Psychiatric drugs do not treat mental disorders in the same way as insulin treats diabetes. “What is implied in this statement is that psychotherapeutic drugs correct known chemical deficiencies (or excesses, or other instances), in the same way that insulin does. This analogy is repeated over and over again, not only in promotional material... and in articles published in professional journals, but, judging from reports from patients, every day in offices of psychiatrists and other physicians,” wrote Elliot Valenstein, Ph.D., biopsychologist and author of Blaming the Brain.
Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that doctors tell patients they need to take a serotonin booster “like a diabetic takes insulin.” But “even in diabetes, when something is known about the physiology, only about 10% of patients have conditions severe enough to require insulin. For the rest, their less severe diabetes can often be managed with milder agents, diet, and lifestyle changes. What if doctors tried to make all diabetics dependent on insulin?”
“In view of the relatively harmless intervention of eliminating colorings and preservatives, and the large numbers of children taking drugs for hyperactivity… an appropriately supervised and evaluated trial of eliminating colourings and preservatives should be part of standard treatment for individual children.”
Professor Andrew Kemp
Department of Paediatrics and Child Health
Children’s Hospital West Mead NSW
The Australian Food Intolerance Network is unequivocal in its conclusions that food intolerance affects behaviour.
In a letter to the managing director of the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority, psychologist and nutritionist Sue Dengate states: “About 50 widely-used food additives affect health, learning and behaviour on a daily basis,” and “The use of these additives is increasing, both in range of foods in which they are found and in the total daily intake. Therefore there is already evident an increase in health, behaviour and learning difficulties in the Australian population that is requiring increased public funding to manage.”
Dengate noted that research “shows that effects are dose-related and that almost everyone will react if the quantities ingested are high enough. Children, women and those who consume the greatest quantities are likely to be the most affected. Several overseas studies suggest that nearly all children will do better in performance and behaviour if they eat an additive-free diet.”
Dr. Doris Rapp, author of the New York Times best seller, Is This Your Child? Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults, says that “...the brain functions of children could be influenced by a food or other environmental factors, for example dust or mold, in such a way that the children would develop so-called hyperactivity or behaviour and learning problems. A wide variety of complaints, including over-activity, fatigue, bed-wetting, inappropriate behaviour, and even epilepsy, in some children, may be due to allergies. Allergic infants can be so hyperactive that they rock their cribs about the room or bounce them off the walls and begin to walk earlier than normal. By isolating and correcting this, the child can be helped so that there are no symptoms and no need for drugs.”
Here are some of Dr. Rapp’s examples:
“At 15, Betsy was depressed and suicidal each year in the late summer when ragweed pollen was in the air in northern Michigan. During her first visit to our clinic she appeared normal until we tested her for an allergy to ragweed. Then she crawled into the office bathtub and refused to come out. She screamed, was untouchable, and complained of so much abdominal pain that she pulled her knees to her chest and held her stomach. After we gave her a neutralizing allergy treatment, she felt entirely normal within a few minutes. Betsy was a persistent school failure until her allergies were recognized and treated, and her academic work and demeanor in school improved dramatically.”
“Karl was a darling 3-year-old youngster with a charming personality—until he ate sugar. His mother noticed that when Karl ate party food or candy, his total personality quickly and dramatically changed. We videotaped Karl as he gleefully devoured eight cubes of sugar. Just as the mother had predicted, within less than an hour he switched from Dr. Jekyll to a Mr. Hyde. At first he stopped playing quietly and began to whine. Then he became more irritable, stomped his feet, wiggled in his chair, tossed his toys over his head, and threw pieces of a puzzle at his mother. When he was given the correct allergy treatment, within a few minutes he was transformed back into his adorable self. His mother was in tears. She realized she was not a bad mother and he was not a bad kid.”
Sleep Disorders Australia reports that sleep apnoea (difficulty breathing during sleep, resulting in significant loss of deep sleep) causes behavioural changes during the day. They state, “Older children may have behavioural problems such as hyperactivity, aggression, learning difficulties and poor concentration. Sleeplessness can cause personality changes, poor school performance and interpersonal relationship problems.”
Dr. Arthur Teng of the Sydney Children’s Hospital also raised the alarm about possible mis-diagnosis of children. He says the majority of children who have fragmented sleep from sleep apnoea become hyperactive and irritable and can be incorrectly diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder.
Perth Audiologist, Brad Hutchinson says that children with central auditing processing disorder (the inability to hear in the same way that others do, which leads to difficulties in recognising and interpreting sounds, especially sounds related to speech) struggle to make sense of verbal instructions, especially in noisy classrooms. This makes them appear non-compliant and fidgety- symptoms mistaken for ADHD. “At least 50 percent of kids (with behavioural or learning problems) coming in to our clinic have some auditory processing problems. “
According to Dr Linda Graham Senior Researcher at the Faculty of Education and Social work at Sydney University, resources would be better spent on giving teachers the skills and support to deal with a variety of children’s behaviour rather than singling out disorders. A letter to the Education Minister by 14 researchers including Dr Graham criticised moves to instruct teachers to look out for ADHD, stating that this could cause teachers to miss signs indicating other difficulties at home or with learning. “The diagnostic criteria for ADHD over the past 15 years has been expanding and it is now possible to diagnose one of my cats” said Dr Graham to the Australian Newspaper.
Sydney University’s Dean of Education and Social Work, Derrick Armstrong said, “… children have been given the ADHD ‘label’ to cover a multitude of problems that had not been addresses and given drugs to ‘basically quiet them done’”… And he added that it was still debateable whether the condition actually existed or has been promoted by ‘hype and vested interests.’’’
Education has regressed with the introduction of psychological concepts into the curriculum. For example, in some areas phonics are ignored and children have been forced to memorize nearly every word without understanding the logical sequence of letters or their sounds. Over the years it has had different names: “Look-Say” in the 1940s and 50s, “sight-word” method in the mid- to late-1960s, to “psycholinguistics” and “Whole Language” in the 1980s.
Consequently, students simply don’t understand what they are being told to study.
In 2002, the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (USA) found that 40% of children being labelled with “learning disorders” simply hadn’t been taught to read.
Therefore, educational basics and tutoring should also be tools to address “challenging behaviour.” If a child is behind in a subject, tutoring on that subject should also be considered.
Furthermore, in many cases the child is inattentive in school because he is extremely talented and is bored. Former US President Bush’s 14-year-old nephew, Pierce, is an example of this. In 2000, he appeared on Larry King Live with his father, Neil, who explained how Pierce was told he was ADD and needed a stimulant, which the boy refused to take. Instead, he was given 3 1/2 days of assessment and was found to be a “gifted and talented kid.”
“It is all too easy for an adult to slap the book shut when misbehaviour occurs and declare that the child needs a visit to the doctor for a diagnosis. We should first look at solutions that have served generations of parents, and more importantly children well: a mix of firmness, understanding and two way communication.”
Judge Paul Conlon
NSW District Court Judge
There is no question that at times children have problems and sometimes these problems can be severe and they need help. This is not in dispute. What care each and every child receives is what needs to be looked at. The cause of the problem for each and every child needs to be found and the child then helped with the cause so that it is rectified and they can live happy normal lives again.
With a biased approach towards defining classroom problems as “disease,” children are too often presented with access to chemical and behavioural treatments only, without equal access to non-chemical treatment for conditions.
Parents are not being informed about the alternatives: that their children could suffer underlying physical problems manifesting as symptoms of “ADHD,” that the child may need to be assessed for special talents and gifts, or that exercise, communication, diet or discipline might be lacking or they may need tutoring if they are behind in school.
Children, indeed all of us, must be provided with proper and effective medical care. Sound medical attention, good nutrition and a healthy and safe environment can prevent the stigmatizing and discriminatory effects of psychiatric labels and treatment.
Children have every youthful right to expect protection, care, love and the chance to reach their full potential in life. Psychiatry’s labels and drugs deny these rights.
1. That educational policy is implemented preventing psychiatric or psychological assessment of schoolchildren using any edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the “Mental Disorders” section of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). And that teachers and all school personnel educational duties do not include suggesting or coercing parents into placing their child on psychiatric drugs, no matter what pressure these personnel may receive from practitioners within the mental health system to do so. This includes rejecting any proposal or recommendation that uses “teachers and other school personnel to be trained to identify ADHD and other psychiatric disorders and to be able to contribute to the treatment which has been implemented….”
2. That government-funded information pamphlets be placed in all state and private schools, as well as issued to Parents and Teachers’ Associations, providing parents and teachers with full information about the diverse and conflicting medical opinion about “ADHD” and “learning” or “behavioural” problems; that this opinion includes scientific evidence that allergies and toxic reactions, and sleeping problems, can manifest as so-called ADHD and should be tested for by a competent doctor preferably trained in environmental medicine. Also, that a child may need educational basics—acknowledging the value of the phonetic-based method of teaching reading, and thereby the value of defining key words—and/or tutoring.
3. That therapies other than drugs be used wherever possible with children, so long as these alternatives are non-abusive and are given with the fully informed consent of the youth, parent, or appointed representative. The information must include advantages, disadvantages, the side effects and known risks as well as available alternative treatments.
4. That on admission to a psychiatric unit, the child or youth must have the right to a full and thorough physical and pathological examination performed by competent personnel to determine whether or not the presenting symptoms are, in fact, due to organic conditions such as vitamin, mineral or blood sugar irregularities or any other undiagnosed medical condition.
5. That severe criminal be implemented (if not already available) by governments for any psychiatrist prescribing stimulants or other psychotropic drugs to children or young people, without the full, informed consent of the young person, parent or appointed representative. Informed consent should include information about all alternatives.
6. That given the increasing youth drug abuse, Federal and State Governments seriously review the monies to, and lack of results from, funding of all mental health programs, tests, research costs in schools; additionally, to review how these funds could be re-appropriated towards proven non-psychological/psychiatric teaching methods and extra teachers and tutors.