Soaring Numbers of Children on Powerful Adult Psychiatric Drugs

children_psychiatric_drugsAUTHOR: Dr Peter R. Breg­gin, M.D.

There has been a con­certed effort by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to pre­scribe toxic antipsy­chotic drugs to chil­dren. Now the “suc­cess” of this cam­paign has been doc­u­mented in the Archives of Gen­eral Psy­chi­a­try. In a com­par­i­son between the years 1993 – 1998 and 2005 – 2009, pre­scrip­tions of antipsy­chotic drugs per 100 chil­dren (ages 13 and under) rose from 0.24 to 1.83. That’s more than a sev­en­fold increase. Given that most of pre­scrip­tions are for the older chil­dren in this age range, the rate would be sub­stan­tially higher among pre­teens and 13-​year-​olds. For ado­les­cents (14 – 20 years old) the increase in pre­scrip­tion rates was nearly fivefold.
This report comes out at a poignant time for me. Right now one of my patients, a 7-​year-​old boy I will call “Joey,” has just returned from being psy­chi­atri­cally hos­pi­tal­ized because he could not be with­drawn from the antipsy­chotic drug Risperdal as an out­pa­tient. The fam­ily came to me for help in get­ting this child off the psy­chi­atric drugs he’d been pre­scribed by another psy­chi­a­trist. A basi­cally sweet and lov­able boy, the with­drawal was such an agony for him that he became uncon­trol­lably vio­lent. Mean­while, he already suf­fers from tar­dive dysk­i­ne­sia, a per­sis­tent and com­monly per­ma­nent move­ment dis­or­der from antipsy­chotic drug expo­sure that causes abnor­mal move­ments, includ­ing deform­ing facial gri­maces and dis­abling invol­un­tary move­ments of the torso and limbs.
Joey is also a vic­tim of pre­co­cious puberty, almost cer­tainly caused by the Risperdal. Although largely ignored in the sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture, accord­ing to Philadel­phia attor­ney Steve Sheller, many cases of Risperdal-​induced pre­ma­ture puberty in boys are show­ing up as legal cases.
My patient Joey became dan­ger­ously vio­lent for the first time after expo­sure to antipsy­chotic med­ica­tion, and then became even more vio­lent dur­ing with­drawal. You can wit­ness sim­i­lar reac­tions in stun­ning footage from an ABC News report about U.S. fos­ter chil­dren pre­scribed large quan­ti­ties of psy­chi­atric drugs. One of these kids is Brooke, also age 7, who was exposed to the drugs since the age of 4. When she was finally taken to a psy­chi­a­trist who rec­og­nized what was hap­pen­ing to her, the doc­tor noted, “The first thing we’ve got to think about: Is the med­i­cine caus­ing this? … There always has to be a high index of sus­pi­cion when we’re using these agents.”
Unlike the esca­la­tion in stim­u­lant drugs pre­scribed to chil­dren for atten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD), which is led by pedi­a­tri­cians and fam­ily doc­tors, psy­chi­a­trists are doing most of the pre­scrib­ing of antipsy­chotic drugs to chil­dren. This is a direct result of off-​label (unap­proved) uses pro­moted by the drug com­pa­nies in coop­er­a­tion with unscrupu­lous psy­chi­a­trists and researchers in lead­er­ship roles in the pro­fes­sion. The new Archives of Gen­eral Psy­chi­a­try study con­firms that most of the pre­scrip­tions of antipsy­chotic drugs to chil­dren have indeed been off-​label for dis­rup­tive behav­ioral dis­or­ders. Instead of help­ing par­ents and teach­ers improve their meth­ods of dis­ci­plin­ing chil­dren, psy­chi­a­trists are sup­press­ing the over­all men­tal life and behav­ior of these young­sters with antipsy­chotic drugs.
“If you do inter­views with chil­dren and ado­les­cents aged 12 to 19, then 40 per­cent can be cat­e­go­rized as anx­ious or depressed. But if you take a closer look and ask how many of them are seri­ously impaired by this, the num­ber shrinks to 8 per­cent.” — DR. JEROME KAGAN
A coura­geous psy­chol­o­gist, Dr. Jerome Kagan, was inter­viewed in 2012 by the Ger­man news site Spiegel about the epi­demic of “men­tal ill­ness” in children:
Spiegel: Experts speak of 5.4 mil­lion Amer­i­can chil­dren who dis­play the symp­toms typ­i­cal of ADHD. Are you say­ing that this men­tal dis­or­der is just an invention?
Kagan: That’s cor­rect; it is an inven­tion. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pedi­a­tri­cian, and the pedi­a­tri­cian says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” … The prob­lem is, if a drug is avail­able to doc­tors, they’ll make the cor­re­spond­ing diagnosis.
Spiegel: So the alleged health cri­sis among chil­dren is actu­ally noth­ing but a bugaboo?
Kagan: We could get philo­soph­i­cal and ask our­selves: “What does men­tal ill­ness mean?” If you do inter­views with chil­dren and ado­les­cents aged 12 to 19, then 40 per­cent can be cat­e­go­rized as anx­ious or depressed. But if you take a closer look and ask how many of them are seri­ously impaired by this, the num­ber shrinks to 8 per­cent. Describ­ing every child who is depressed or anx­ious as being men­tally ill is ridicu­lous. Ado­les­cents are anx­ious, that’s nor­mal. They don’t know what col­lege to go to. Their boyfriend or girl­friend just stood them up. Being sad or anx­ious is just as much a part of life as anger or sex­ual frustration.
Spiegel: What does it mean if mil­lions of Amer­i­can chil­dren are wrongly being declared men­tally ill?
Kagan: Well, most of all, it means more money for the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try and more money for psy­chi­a­trists and peo­ple doing research.
Spiegel: And what does it mean for the chil­dren concerned?
Kagan: For them, it is a sign that some­thing is wrong with them — and that can be debil­i­tat­ing. I’m not the only psy­chol­o­gist to say this. But we’re up against an enor­mously pow­er­ful alliance: phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that are mak­ing bil­lions, and a pro­fes­sion that is self-​interested.
As Dr. Kagan con­firms, chil­dren suf­fer psy­cho­log­i­cally and devel­op­men­tally from being wrongly diag­nosed “men­tally ill.” There are also extra­or­di­nary med­ical risks from expo­sure to antipsy­chotics. The Archives of Gen­eral Psy­chi­a­try report men­tions that these drugs may cause increased blood sugar, dia­betes, increased lipids (cho­les­terol), and obe­sity. It does not men­tion that these adverse reac­tions greatly ele­vate the risk of later heart dis­ease, espe­cially since these drugs also com­pro­mise car­diac function.
The study also neglects to men­tion tar­dive dysk­i­ne­sia, neu­rolep­tic malig­nant syn­drome (a poten­tially fatal dis­ease that mim­ics a viral brain dis­ease), and a vari­ety of other haz­ards caused by these drugs in chil­dren as well as adults. It does not men­tion that stud­ies done on schiz­o­phrenic patients being treated with these drugs con­tinue to indi­cate that antipsy­chotic drugs are toxic to brain cells, and that they are asso­ci­ated with shrink­age of the brain.
Doc­u­ment­ing the ris­ing trend of antipsy­chotic pre­scrip­tions for chil­dren and youth is vital, but why do the authors of the new study call for more clin­i­cal tri­als to test the safety and effi­cacy of these drugs in chil­dren? Why don’t they call for a mora­to­rium on the off-​label psy­chi­atric drug­ging of chil­dren and youth with antipsy­chotic drugs? The answer may lie in the authors’ many finan­cial ties to mul­ti­ple inter­na­tional drug companies.
In the finan­cial dis­clo­sures sec­tion at the end of the study, a rogues gallery of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies are listed, includ­ing Eli Lilly, Bristol-​Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Boehringer-​Ingelheim, Glax­o­SmithK­line, Novar­tis, Janssen/​Johnson & John­son, Pfizer, Schering-​Plough and more.
As I describe in my new book, Psy­chi­atric Drug With­drawal: A Guide for Pre­scribers, Ther­a­pists, Patients and Their Fam­i­lies, health pro­fes­sion­als must stop the psy­chi­atric drug­ging of chil­dren and focus on devel­op­ing facil­i­ties and approaches for help­ing chil­dren and adults to with­draw from these drugs as safely as pos­si­ble. An epi­demic of brain dam­age and other bod­ily harms could be stopped by cur­tail­ing the drug­ging of chil­dren and by encour­ag­ing their safe with­drawal from these haz­ardous chem­i­cal intru­sions into their brains, minds and lives.
Mean­while, there is no mys­tery about what chil­dren need from us. They need more of us. Whether the child is hav­ing dif­fi­culty focus­ing in school or behav­ing at home, whether the child is hav­ing dif­fi­culty social­iz­ing or com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and whether the child is given no psy­chi­atric diag­no­sis or a seri­ous diag­no­sis — all chil­dren need car­ing, informed, dis­ci­plined and ded­i­cated atten­tion from the adults in their lives. As adults, we need to retake respon­si­bil­ity for rais­ing and edu­cat­ing our children.
AUTHOR: Peter R. Breg­gin, M.D.
Pub­lished in Path­ways to Fam­ily Well­ness Mag­a­zine, Issue #43, Fall 2014
Editor’s Note: Back in the ‘90s I came across a doc­u­men­tary called Atten­tion Deficit Dis­or­der: A Dubi­ous Diag­no­sis. Pro­duced by John Mer­row, this film was my intro­duc­tion to the con­certed move­ment to label and drug our chil­dren based on what could very well be deter­mined as nor­mal child­hood behav­iors. Through this film, I was intro­duced to this story’s author, Peter Breg­gin, Ph.D., who has writ­ten numer­ous books and arti­cles advo­cat­ing for the ref­or­ma­tion of psy­chi­atric treat­ments. In the doc­u­men­tary, Breg­gin crit­i­cizes the cri­te­ria of “symp­toms” used to diag­nose and drug our chil­dren. His stance against chem­i­cally sup­press­ing symp­toms that adversely affect nor­mal brain func­tion and life expres­sion is one I can solidly stand behind.
As a chi­ro­prac­tor who learns to seek the “cause for well-​being,” I respond strongly to the theme of dubi­ous diag­no­sis, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal self-​interest that vio­lates our children’s need to express their nor­mal, nat­ural, cre­ative potential.
As a mother of six active, cre­ative, expres­sive chil­dren, when I read the cri­te­ria for ADHD diag­no­sis, my reac­tion swayed between a gasp and a reflec­tive know­ing: “Really? That is the def­i­n­i­tion of kids free to be!”
Manip­u­lat­ing these nor­mal, exu­ber­ant child­hood behav­iors into a diag­no­sis by self-​interest groups sends my mater­nal and chi­ro­prac­tic anten­nae way up. With the alarm­ing rise in this “dubi­ous diag­no­sis,” along with the ram­pant drug­ging of our kids at younger and younger ages with dan­ger­ous psy­chotropic drugs, it is very impor­tant for par­ents to under­stand that when we restore nor­mal nerve sys­tem func­tion with the chi­ro­prac­tic adjust­ment, we get nor­mal phys­i­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal function.