Chat Transcript: Dr. Peter Breggin on Ritalin and Kids

One good study from the University of California School of Education by Nadine Lambert followed children given Ritalin and other stimulants and found increased cocaine and nicotine abuse in young adulthood. Some children develop tics and on rare occasion they become permanent. Some develop severe mental disorders such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it can take time to recover. Some of the school shooters such as P.J. Solomon of Conyers GA were taking Ritalin, and clearly his acts have a lasting effect on the rest of his life.

Moderator at 1:13pm ET

In your estimation, how many children are actually afflicted with ADD/ADHD and in need of treatment? How do your numbers compare to the number of kids being medicated?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:15pm ET

I do not believe that ADHD is a valid diagnosis. And I believe that medicating children is not the way to handle our conflicts with them as parents and teachers. However, even by the standards of most ADHD advocates, our children are heavily overmedicated. A recent study out of Duke University showed that more than 7% of children were receiving stimulants. Another study out of Virginia showed that 10% of children were receiving stimulants in school, and probably a greater number if you included children medicated before coming to school. In addition, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shown a 3-fold increase in Ritalin subscriptions to toddlers, ages 2 to 4, and hardly anyone thinks that's justified.

So by almost any standard, we are far overmedicating our children. The International Narcotics Control Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the US has an epidemic of excessive Ritalin prescription, and emphasizes that stimulants are highly addictive. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has also warned that Ritalin is excessively prescribed and is being abused by children and young adults. They have emphasized that Ritalin is not as safe a drug as advocates claim. In Talking Back to Ritalin, I document the many adverse affects from stimulant-caused mental disorders to growth suppression, heart problems and addiction.

Moderator at 1:22pm ET

Is Ritalin the most widely prescribed drug for ADD/ADHD?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:24pm ET

For many years Ritalin has been by far the most widely-prescribed drug, sometimes in its generic form, methylphenidate. It is now being replaced by Adderall, which is a form of amphetamine. We have even more animal research showing permanent brain damage from amphetamines than from Ritalin, a drug that is classified as amphetamine-like. Now there's a new product coming out which is basically a one-a-day dose of Ritalin. That will be even more dangerous because it encourages the quick fix mentality. Also, when a drug acts for a longer period of time, it's more dangerous because if it has a harmful effect, it can't be quickly cleared out of the body.

Betty from at 1:26pm ET

What are the FDA and NIH stipulations for including children in drug trials?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:28pm ET

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