This disease did not exist before 1987, when at the stroke of a pen, a list of the most common symptoms that bother parents and teachers was made, including trouble concentrating, talking constantly, fidgeting, and running around in an impulsive manner. This was labeled a disease. Suddenly this disease became an epidemic, with some 5 to 7 million being diagnosed in the U.S today. Estimates of school-age children worldwide with ADHD range from 2 to 9.5%.

This so-called disease does not have a demonstrated biological etiology. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, State University of New York, states that ‘the designation disease can only be justified when the cause can be related to a demonstrable anatomical lesion, infection or some other Physiological defect.’

While some studies assert (but cannot prove) that an over-production of dopamine is a cause of ADHD. (Lancet study reported in the Wall Street Journal, March27, 2000), this is misleading. Brain scans have been done on subjects who were either on, or had previously been on, stimulant medication, which can alter brain chemistry. Dr Swanson, collaborating with F.Xavier Castellanos of N.M.H. concluded that the brains of ADHD subjects were 10% smaller than normal, thus it was a disease. He did not disclose that nearly all of the subjects had been on long term Ritalin treatment, a likely cause of the smallness of the brain.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends the use of stimulant medication in the SHORT TERM. This stimulant medication consists of dexamphetamine and methylphenidate, Ritalin, a substance chemically distinct from the amphetamines, but its effects and the ways it is used are identical. Many hyperactive children when thus treated show a marked reduction in their restlessness and an improvement in their ability to concentrate. However it must be remembered that stimulant drugs, including cocaine, have the same effect on the ‘normal’ population. Between 10 and 40% of hyperactive children show no improvement when given amphetamines. (Gossop, Living With Drugs). Even these figures may be too low. A meta-analysis recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that clinical trials have been biased as, although patients may take Ritalin or Dexamphetamine for years, most trials comparing the drug with a placebo only lasted 3 weeks, with none lasting longer than 7 months. In many cases the impressions of teachers who thought the children taking stimulant medication performed no better than most on a placebo, were ignored. (Brad Evenson, Scientist)
An Australian study by Lewin & Fletcher(1993) found at 12 months no improvements were evident that could be directly attributed to treatment. A meta-analysis (Thurber & Walker 1983) claimed that methyphenidate shows only small short-term and no long-term improvement.

Some of the adverse side effects mentioned by the NHMRC are

  • physiological effects of monadrenergic activation which can produce stimulation of cardiac muscle and contraction of bladder sphincter, bronchodilatation, mild rise in blood pressure and tachycardia (a heart beat of over 100 beats per minute)
  • those associated with pharmacokinetics (bodily movements that are caused by the taking of the drug)
  • other idiosyncratic responses

The long term issues include

  • whether tolerance develops, requiring increasing dosage
  • increased side-effects in certain populations
  • effects on physical growth of child
  • psychological or pharmacological dependence

A report in 1977 (Sprague & Sleator) suggested that higher doses may compromise cognitive performance. Many teachers report, ‘loss of sparkle’ and ‘zombie effects’.
The NHMRC warns that ‘significant side-effects which should always be taken seriously include tics, major mood changes, with marked sadness, anxiety, aggression and any bizarre or persecutory thoughts’.
They also state that ‘Further research should examine the efficacy and safety of medication… and prolonged or continuous use of stimulant medication.”

Alarm bells start to ring when we realize that these stimulant medications are Schedule Two drugs, as are cocaine and morphine. Schedule Two includes drugs of addiction that can only be prescribed by a doctor. They must always be kept securely locked away. A further concern is that persons taking these medications are precluded from entry into the US Military Forces.

The ultimate side effect – death.
According to Dr Ljuba Dragovic, chief pathologist at the Oakland County Medical Examiners Office, Michigan, the cause of the death of 14 year old Matthew Smith, who had been taking Ritalin from age 7 to 14 years was ‘Long term use of Methylphenidate (Ritalin).” Matthew’s heart showed clear signs of small vessel damage, the type caused by stimulant drugs like amphetamines.

‘I am convinced that the pharmaceutical industry spends enormous amounts of money to increase its sales and profits by influencing physicians and the public in ways that sometimes bend the truth and that are often not in the best interests of science or the public.”
Dr Elliot Valenstein, University of Michigan, Neuroscientist.

It is significant that the organization Chadd, (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) have been in receipt of large contributions from the drug company Ciba/Novartis for many years. Chadd received $748,000 FROM Ciba/Novartis in the period 1991 to 1994 alone. During the periods when Chadd received such funding it deliberately made efforts to increase the sales of Ritalin, to increase the supply of Ritalin available in the US, and to reduce and eliminate laws and restrictions concerning the use of Ritalin in the US. Why else would Ciba/Novartis make such contributions if not with the purpose of advertising and promoting sales of Ritalin – an internationally controlled substance.

If you have schools pressuring you into medicating your child, please understand your rights. Teachers are not permitted to diagnose this ‘disease’. In fact they are not permitted to say that your child has ADHD. All they can do, in consultation with the Learning Support Team, is advise you that your child displays certain characteristics (named), and that it would be advisable to have your child checked by Health Professionals. They may NOT mention the possible use of stimulant medication. They should also offer a behaviour modification strategy, and they cannot, under any circumstances suggest that your child is not welcome at the school UNLESS HE TAKES STIMULANT MEDICATION.

If this happens, and the administration are a party to this, report the matter to the relevant authorities; write a letter to the P&C, giving all the details, and DO NOT LET YOURSELF BE BULLIED into drugging your child against your will.

What causes hyperactivity? Is it a discrete entity? What are some alternatives to the use of drugs? I am currently involved in an exciting Research

Project looking at the causes and remediation of ADHD and many learning difficulties. The research will be using the latest technology to monitor wellness of our clients as they progressively improve using our unique combination of therapies which are of course totally natural. Any new volunteers who wish to take part in this research are welcome.

In the US, Ritalin is one of the top ten abused prescription drugs of the streets today…. and remember There is no evidence for long-term effectiveness of Stimulant Medication.

By Dr Jill Engelmann Ph.D.

Director NeuroFocus Wellness Centre.