The Making of an American Tragedy

image credit: iStock

image credit: iStock

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin said that diagnosing millions of children with ADHD and then treating them with stimulants and other psychoactive chemicals is an American tragedy. “Never before in history has a society attempted to deal with its children by drugging a significant portion of them into conformity while failing to meet their needs in the home, school and society.” According to Dr.Breggin, the ethical scientist and physician, the concerned parent “must feel stricken with grief and dumbfounded” that our society has allowed this to happen to our children.

In October of 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) overrode the FDA and approved diagnosing children as young as four with ADHD and medicating them with Ritalin. The lead author of the report said: “Because of greater awareness about ADHD and better ways of diagnosing and treating this disorder, more children are being helped.” Dr. Breggin said this action was an outrage: “This endorsement of drugging younger children by the American Academy of Pediatrics is an outrage.”

According to Dr. Breggin, the scientific literature shows that 50 percent or more of children this young will become depressed, lethargic, weepy—along with being more manageable when given medications such as Ritalin, Adderall and other ADHD medications. Studies show that stimulants will permanently change brain chemistry in the children, cause shrinkage of brain tissue and predispose them to cocaine addiction in young adulthood. He also feared this endorsement by the AAP would open the door for every other psychiatric drug being prescribed to children that young.

These new guidelines will encourage prescribers to throw caution to the wind with toddlers, opening a Pandora’s box of drug intervention for children. Many young children will have their brains bathed with powerful and often toxic chemicals in the early years of their central nervous system development.

But the problems didn’t stop there. Susanna Visser, who oversees the CDC research on ADHD, presented a report at the Georgia Mental Health Forum in May of 2014 that suggested at least 10,000 2 and 3 year-olds were being medicated for ADHD. “It puts these children and their developing minds at risk, and their health is at risk.” Effective non-drug treatments were often ignored.

Families of toddlers with behavioral problems are coming to the doctor’s office for help, and the help they are getting too often is a prescription for a Class II controlled substance, which has not been established as safe for that young of a child.

As liberal as the AAP guidelines for ADHD are, they do not even address diagnosis in children 3 and younger—let alone the use of stimulant medications—with that age group. Children under 4 are not covered in the guidelines because “hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally appropriate for toddlers.” Dr. Lawrence Diller, a pediatrician, said: “People prescribing to 2-year-olds are just winging it. It is outside the standard of care, and they should be subject to malpractice if something goes wrong with a kid.”

Sheila Matthews attempted to put “the insanity of drugging 2-3 year olds” in perspective. She noted that the average weight for male toddlers at three years was 29.5 pounds; female toddlers averaged 28.4 pounds. “By this age, only 80 percent of the child’s brain has fully developed.” Kids at this age are learning to arrange things in groups, to put things in size order, remembering what they did yesterday, learning to say please and thank you, and recognizing themselves in the mirror. “In a nutshell, 2-3 year old toddlers are being labeled with an alleged mental illness that is not based in science or medicine and then “treated” with extremely addictive, mind-altering drugs before their brains are even fully formed.”

Psychiatrist Allen Frances said: “Treating babies with stimulants is based on no research, is reckless, and takes no account of the possible harmful long-term effects of bathing baby brains with powerful neurotransmitter drugs.” He hoped that the CDC report would fuel a backlash of parental and professional protest as it becomes clearer how absurdly overused is the ADHD diagnosis and stimulant medication. “It is also particularly outrageous that so many of the thought leaders promoting the excessive use of stimulants have such close ties with pharmaceutical companies.”

Dr Breggin lamented that instead of meeting the normal needs of our children, we are suppressing them with drugs. The average parent or teacher has no idea that what is presented as medical treatment “is actually a form of medical child abuse.” What they see is a more manageable child and assumes this is for the best. Instead, it is the making of an American tragedy.

Do you think the drugging of young children and toddlers is a form of medical child abuse?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.