Drug Firms Promote False “Cures” to Schools

Adults who attended school in the sixties and seventies may remember classes of forty or more students sitting quietly and upright in wrap-around school desks. Behaviors such as speaking out, not paying attention, talking back, hitting others, or throwing pencils were not tolerated. Children who violated the rules were often subjected to verbal assaults, hit with a ruler, strapped, or sent to a principal’s office for a more severe punishment. 

No parent would want their child to be subjected to the punitive school practices of the past. Schools today appear to be more progressive, respectful of children’s opinions, and supportive of individual differences. Most educational authorities claim to have a better approach to different academic needs and behavior disruptions in classrooms, through the use of various testing procedures, counselling programs and mental health supports.

 Yet, most parents are not aware that educational ministries have come under the influence of drug companies which have promoted the false notion that educational, emotional and behavioral issues are symptoms of “mental health” problems which require medical treatment. Although there are no biological tests or brain scans for ADHD, depression, anxiety and a number of other behavioral classifications, teachers are encouraged to identify any student who is distressed, disruptive or failing and refer them to physicians, community clinics and hospital emergency rooms. More often than not, the student returns to school labeled with a “mental disorder” and put on a behavior or mood-altering medication.  Beware. The number of children who are treated with medication for “mental health” problems is now in the millions and rising.

Ciba-Geigy Trains Teachers to Identify ADHD

The trend to use psychopharmaceuticals to control children’s behavior in the classroom and community was kickstarted with the widespread promotion of ADHD in the early nineties. Drug company Ciba Geigy, the manufacturer of the drug, Ritalin, used psychiatrist Larry Silver to promote the diagnosis to teachers with a 1990 publication of a first-ever booklet on Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disabilities Booklet for the Classroom Teacher. Teachers were told that Ritalin acted as “a compensation for deficits in the child’s brain and resulted in a decrease in motor activity, distractibility and an increase in attention span”. In workshops Silver told teachers that medication increased the level of “some neurotransmitter” in the child’s brain, did not drug or alter the brain of the child.

In fact, the opposite is true. Evidence-based studies today show that Ritalin and other psychopharmaceuticals disrupt the normal working balance of children’s developing brains and cause adverse physical changes and psychological reactions, such as slowed growth, cardiovascular events, anxiety, mania, and suicidal ideations. These potential side effects have been hidden from the public through a mass media disinformation campaign, at the behest of pharmaceutical companies and their promoters. Our governments have gone along with this cover-up.

Misinforming Parents

Although we hear that Ritalin, for example, is extremely safe, has been around for more than thirty years and helps the brain attend and learn, take note of the Physician’s Desk Reference, the guidebook for doctors. It states it does not know how the drug works, how it affects the central nervous system and its long-term safety is not known.

Indeed, the prescribing information listed by the drug manufacturer lists the potential of numerous side effects.

Nervousness, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, blood pressure changes, angina, irregular heartbeat, weight loss, growth suppression, abnormal body movement, Tourette’s Syndrome, manic symptoms, hallucinations, depressed mood, delusional thinking, aggressive behavior or hostility.

Clinical reports have also linked stimulants to suicide attempts. Doctors are known to deal with these side effects by erroneously adding a second or third medication. In spite of the unsafe effects that psychopharmaceuticals cause, millions of parents have been pressured to put their children on ADHD drugs, antidepressants and even antipsychotic drugs, which have a worse side effect profile.

Few parents are told that antidepressants carry a “black box label” warning of the drugs’ high risk of causing suicide among youth under the age of 25. Or that a re-analysis of a major government study (TADS, Healy, David, 2012) found a significant increase in suicidal events in adolescents treated with Prozac, which has been touted as the safest antidepressant for teenagers. The suicidal rate was four times as great, 11 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent for adolescents who did not use an antidepressant.

The Corporate Capture of Students

Incredibly, schools are pressuring parents to get “mental health” help for Johnny or Susie when they lose interest in schoolwork, are upset, bored, misbehave or fall behind their peers in their classwork. Instead of looking at in-house school or community factors as reasons why a child is not doing well in school, teachers are used by corporate entities to promote the sale of harmful “mental health” services and medications.

Children and adolescents too have come under the influence of drug companies and their promoters. They are taught in health classes, often mandated, to recognize the symptoms of “mental health” problems and the importance of seeking treatment for themselves and their classmates. Unknown to students, the underlying message is that human distress and failure are defects in a person’s brain, “mental disorders”, in that “some of the various brain circuits are not working the way they should be” and “miracle” pills can correct these faulty brains and “create happy and hopeful futures”. There are no biological tests that can diagnose a mental disorder but saying so sells false “cures” and pharmaceutical drugs.

As a social work consultant in a special education department for twenty-five years, I was able to follow the progress of students who were identified and prescribed “mental health” medications. There were no happy stories, only more school failure and tragic outcomes for the medicated students.

Alternative Solutions for Parents

If your child has been labeled and is already on one or more psychiatric drugs, you will need to thoroughly inform yourself about the hazards of their drug regimen by reading about potential side effects in the drug insert that comes with your child’s medication, by looking up the list of warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration health regulator and drug manufacturer. You will need to find a doctor to support you in any decision to make changes to your child’s drug prescriptions, as starting or stopping psychiatric medications can cause severe withdrawal effects.

Non-Drug Therapy

You may be directed to try a number of non-drug therapies, such as Collaborative Problem Solving, social skills programing or counseling as a remedy for you child’s problems. These are band aids and will not help correct the problems that are inherent in many schools today. Your child may be struggling or upset but recognize that you know best and reject any pressure from teachers or experts that your child needs medical treatment for academic or behavioral problems.

Look for social, emotional or educational factors that may be causing your child’s problem. The lack of discipline in classrooms today is often a major factor in your child’s lack of progress. You may have to add your own consequences for your child’s unruly behavior in the classroom in order to protect her from harm. For young children, David Stein’s 4-week care giver program, described in his book, Ritalin Is Not the Answer, can help you monitor your child’s progress throughout all teaching periods on a daily basis, teaches children to control their own behavior and can improve academic performance. In some cases, tutoring or home instruction can be helpful.

Never in history have our children been subjected to medications to control their minds and behavior. An entire generation’s health and future prosperity is being sacrificed in the interests of corporate profits. It is crucial that parents and advocates for the rights of children and adolescents recognize this destructive, unhealthful trend and demand that our governments put an end to our children’s exploitation by the pharmaceutical industry.