Chat Transcript: Dr. Peter Breggin on Ritalin and Kids

The FDA has approved Ritalin for use in children 6 years and older. The NIMH is currently planning to do studies involving hundreds of 2-4 year-old children. I believe that this is child abuse and should not be allowed. I urge conscientious individuals to write to their congressmen and senators and to the director of NIMH protesting giving these drugs to young children. Basically the government is doing the drug companies' dirty work by trying to prove that it is good to give these drugs to little tiny children.

A. McDonald at 1:30pm ET

I have a friend who successfully treated her child's ADD with the Dr. Feingold Diet. How much research is being done to explore a link between ADD and the increased amount of preservatives and other things in our food?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:33pm ET

There's no scientific evidence that children diagnosed with ADHD have a physical disorder. Therefore, I believe it is faulty to try treating it as if it's caused by a food allergy, too much sugar, or additives. Certainly, a good diet of healthy food will improve a child's quality of life, but it's a mistake to equate that with treating this fraudulent disorder. However, in order to impose a Feingold Diet requires paying a great deal of attention to your child, including all of your child's daily activities inside and outside the home. It requires a rigorous program of discipline for you and your child. I believe this is why these fad solutions actually end up helping parents and children in regard to the child learning self-control. from at 1:34pm ET

What sort of effect does Ritalin have on the cardiovascular system?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:36pm ET

Ritalin, Adderall, and all stimulants cause cardiovascular problems and on occasion cardiac arrest. Stimulants disrupt the rhythm of the heart. Animal studies show they weaken heart muscle. Addicts who abuse stimulants can develop severe cardiac disease. Children develop hypertension. Scientists in the black community where hypertension is a particular problem have warned about exposing African-American children to these drugs. Finally, we have had recent reports of sudden death from Ritalin. And I'm a medical expert in one of them.

Moderator at 1:37pm ET

If you don't believe in the use of medications, what are alternatives are available for parents?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:38pm ET

I discuss alternatives in great length in two of my recent books, Talking Back to Ritalin (1998) and Reclaiming Our Children (2000). In addition, in my book Your Drug May be Your Problem (1999), my co-author David Cohen and I have a chapter on how to withdraw children from stimulant drugs. In deciding what to do with your child's problems, you first of all need to find out what they really are. Diagnosing doesn't help. You need to find out if your child is undisciplined at home and/or at school, if your child feels anxious or distressed at home or school. If the problem is largely at home, where your child is out of control or very upset, then there's very good news. You as a parent, if you improve your parenting skills, will invariably be able to improve your child's self-control and conduct. The power is in our hands as parents, not in the child's brain. There are many good books and workshops available on parenting.

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