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Talking Back to Ritalin

What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants for Children

by Dr. Peter R. Breggin
Information About the Book Copyright © 1999 by

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Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants for Children (New York, NY: Common Courage Press, 1998). Order on-line

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Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants for Children
by Dr. Peter R. Breggin
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Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Today's Most Controversial Drug
by Dr. Peter R. Breggin
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Survival Strategies for Parenting Your ADD Child

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An controversial analysis of the true cause of Attention Deficit Disorder. Based on personal experience and years of medical practice and research, Scattered is a groundbreaking book that explodes the conventional wisdom that A.D.D. is a genetically based disorder, declaring instead that its roots are environmental. Dr. Gabor Maté, a family physician and himself an A.D.D. sufferer, asserts that A.D.D. originates in infancy as a response to conditions that fail to provide a necessary degree of emotional or physical security. Financial problems, marital strife, job stress, and substance abuse can all create an environment that may trigger A.D.D.
  Avg. Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Number of Reviews: 7

Sharon A. Collins, MD, pediatrician
"I am a mother first and a doctor second... The principles in this book help us as parents to empower our children to be successful in life."

Ronald David, M.D., Pediatrician and Medical Director, D.C. Health and Hospitals Public Benefits Corporation
"As medical director of D.C. General Hospital, I intend to make this book required reading for all child care providers on my staff."

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D, former projects director of the Freud Archives and author of Dogs Never Lie about Love and When Elephants Weep
"Every child needs a hero--a champion who will speak truth to power. That hero is Peter Breggin. When he writes on behalf of children and caring parents, the world should stand up and take notice. This book is packed with information needed by anyone who is considering prescribing psychiatric drugs to children."

Book Description
Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, Desoxyn, Gradumet, Cylert.... Have you ever wondered whether your child's behavior might be helped by these drugs? Has a teacher or doctor suggested this to you? If so, you need the facts--facts that most doctors can't tell you because even doctors haven't been told the truth about the drugs that they prescribe.

In this compassionate and compelling book. Dr. Breggin shows why our children need education, not medication. TALKING BACK TO RITALIN empowers parents to transform distracted, disenchanted and energetic children into powerful, confident and brilliant members of the family and society.

Customer Comments
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars Number of Reviews: 7 from Vermont, USA , October 3, 1999 4 out of 5 stars
Good solid counter-propaganda
Breggin's argument is considerably more nuanced and interesting than the reader from New England implies. Ritalin's side effects, unlike ADHD, have been proven to exist, and most of them are quite unpleasant. Breggin outlines how a drug that should be used as a drug of last resort-- if it should be used at all-- has increasingly been seen in the US and Canada as a 'quick fix' for any difficulties a child may have. This book should be required reading for any parent with a child given the ADHD label.

A reader from Maryland , July 21, 1999 5 out of 5 stars
Sorry, but I have to agree.
For the reviewer who is talking back to Peter Breggin, I'm sorry to say that I have to agree with him. It used to be that Ritalin was practically unheard of, but now the number of children taking it has increased fivefold over the last five years, and if ADHD were a "disease", just like cancer or diabetes, as psychiatrists like to claim, then we wouldn't be seeing an increase in children being labeled with this disorder.

Furthermore, I see nothing wrong with trying alternatives to Ritalin. Many parents with children labeled ADHD have looked for allergies and other physical conditions, such as thyroid problems, and have found them. Many other parents have changed their child's diet to one that is low in sugar, and that has also worked wonders. Still other children may be having trouble at home, such as parents going through a divorce, or a new baby in the family. Stress impacts greatly on the lives of children. I'm not blaming the parents for anything, I'm just stating the facts. Granted, there are children who are troubled despite the fact that everything seems to be okay in their lives, but I really believe that this is the exception, not the rule, and that children often begin acting out when they have stressors at home and/or at school. Parents need to be informed and keep an open mind, and identify possible physical conditions or stressors in their child's life before giving their children stimulants. To so hastily prescribe Ritalin before looking for other causes of hyperactivity and telling the parents what THEY want to hear to make money is a grave disservice to our children, and most definitely a cause for concern in our society, as children are our future.

If you like facts, I'll state one: children who were prescribed Ritalin in childhood are three times more likely to use cocaine later in life. Don't try to tell me that this is because their "biochemically defective brains" cause them to make bad choices and use drugs. I don't buy it. And I also don't buy that you don't seem to think that ADHD children are our "best and our brightest", as Peter Breggin believes. I have actually found data that says that ADHD tends to disappear once the child is past school age, and that many of these children tend to do well as artisans or at other jobs where they work "on their feet" when they grow up. Albert Einstein is thought to have had ADHD, and a teacher once wrote on his report card, "You'll never amount to anything." What if Einstein had taken Ritalin? Would he have reached his full potential with his brilliant mind altered by speed? I doubt it.

When I was about ten, my mother took me to a psychotherapist because I was fidgety and nervous in school, and I would come home in tears nearly every day. Some of my classmates were picking on me, and school had become a hellhole for me as a result of their torments. I was also often fidgety and emotional at home as well. The therapist told my mother to try changing my diet, and in the meantime, he talked to me about my problems with the children at school picking on me, and he also talked about a past issue that still bothered me: I was sexually molested at the age of nine by a neighbor, and had been afraid to tell anyone. Needless to say, changing my diet and getting to the root of my problems took some time, but I greatly improved.

That was 1988. What would happen to me eleven years later in 1999 if I was a child and I walked into a psychologist's office? He would probably refer me to a psychiatrist, who would prescribe me speed and fifteen minutes a week to monitor the speed. Meanwhile, he would feed my parents the unproven myth that I had a "biochemical imbalance" or "crossed wires". I find it very insulting to find that a doctor would see my reactions in childhood to stressful events and my personality in general as nothing more than a "diseased brain". And that's what we have turned to, and its really sad. Oh, and for your information, New England, I turned out pretty well, I believe, despite the fact that I didn't get the stimulant drugs that NAMI members and psychiatrists today would say that I needed back then. I'm not rich and famous or anything, but I work, I go to college, I'm married, I have lots of good friends, and I plan to have a baby next year. I have never been in trouble with the law, and I don't intend to ever be. Not bad for someone who a doctor would call "defective". Oh, sitting still is still a bit difficult for me, and I'm definitely sometimes what you could call "hyper", but I don't necessarily see that as a defect. I see that as the way that I am. Some people are less excitable and can tolerate sitting still; others are not.

Here's another fact: the U.S. makes and consumes 90% of the world's Ritalin. If it were true that "untreated" ADHD led to kids committing crimes, then we'd see a rash of crimes in other countries that don't use Ritalin. Obviously, the pill solution isn't working, because plenty of kids in this country are shooting their classmates and planting bombs in schools. You don't see this in other countries. In two of the school shootings in recent years, the shooter was taking a mind-altering drug. Who's to say that the drug didn't contribute to the teens' behavior and make them violence-prone?

Dr. Breggin, you are right. This IS a cause for concern. Too many kids are being given stimulants, and increasingly, Prozac and other mind-altering drugs. Will we win the war on Joe Camel only to find that Mr. Prozac has taken his place? Just because a drug is prescribed by a doctor doesn't mean that it's the right course of action to take. And Dr. Breggin, you have done a great thing for our youth by writing this book. You have done no harm. The doctors doing harm are the ones that are handing out pills like candy to kids, and saying to the parents, "Oh, it doesn't matter if your child goes to three different sitters and you drink like a fish and his father never spends time with him; its all his broken brain's fault." THESE are the doctors that have violated the sacred oath. from Fayetteville, North Carolina , July 8, 1999 5 out of 5 stars
It was a thoughtful presentation of a controversial topic.
Dr. Breggin takes the reader on an important journey. He begins with well documented descriptions of the adverse effects of stimulant drugs, and concludes with valuable comments on effective parenting and caring. In between, he talks about what is wrong with the way we view our children. He also rightly criticizes the way that drug/pharmaceutical companies manipulate the process to get their drugs approved and promoted. If you have children in school, and you have time to read only one book this year, this must be the one.

A reader from New England , June 15, 1999 1 out of 5 stars
ADHD, Ritalin, & Conspiracies: Talking Back to Peter Breggin
Breggin warns us of the catastrophe now befalling children in the United States as a consequence of the clinical methods of organized psychiatry and psychology, professional diagnostic classifications for childhood mental disorders by these professions, and psychiatric medications for the treatment of those disorders. In his most recent book, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the stimulant medication, Ritalin often used to treat it, come in for very heavy criticism. Along the way, a number of leading clinical scientists in the field of ADHD, are criticized for misrepresenting the status of our science. National charities, pharmaceutical companies, and even federal institutes that fund mental health research, also receive the full brunt of Breggins' ire. Breggin claims that all are conspiring to "drug" America's school children for the management of their ADHD, among other behavior problems. Left unaddressed by the author is precisely how such a complex conspiracy could ever be organized and kept secret, if it actually existed. No persuasive evidence of such a conspiracy is ever provided in the book, just the repeated assertion that an ADHD/Ritalin conspiracy exists.

Breggin considers children with ADHD and other behavior problems actually to be among our most creative, sensitive, energetic, and intelligent. And so he finds the use of medication for their management to be worthy of public concern and scorn. His assessment of ADHD children, however, ignores more than 30 years of longitudinal research on ADHD, including my own ongoing- 20 year follow-up study, demonstrating the substantial and pervasive development risks that ADHD and its related disorders of oppositional and conduct disorder convey to a child. Such research clearly demonstrates that ADHD has a negative impact on intelligence (an average 7-10 points below normal), on academic achievement skills (an average of 10-15 points below normal), and academic progress (25-50 percent are retained in grade, 36 percent fail to graduate high school, and only 5 percent complete a college education). Children with ADHD, particularly those with childhood oppositional defiant disorder, are at much higher risk for later lying and stealing (45 percent), conduct disorder and delinquency (25-45 percent), early substance experimentation and substance dependence/abuse (15-25 percent), and social rejection (50 percent or more). This is not to say that some children with ADHD fail to succeed in life; but it is to say that characterizing this group of children as our best, most creative, and brightest does a severe injustice to the facts of the matter and is woefully misleading to the public in general and to parents of these children in particular.

From its opening pages, this book makes contorted attempts at the appearance of scholarship, replete with quotes, footnotes, and references to scientific papers and other sources. Throughout, any quote is mustered from scientific papers that can be taken out of context to support the author's biases along with every exaggerated fact and figure he can find to support his call to alarm, no matter the credibility (or lack of it) of his sources. However, the flaws of both his research methods and his arguments are evident to any scientist even slightly familiar with the scientific literature on the topics covered here. Lacking any sense of perspective and proportion, this book fails to place its facts and figures in their rightful context and history, and eschews any attempt at a balanced and thoughtfully reasoned approach to its major topics. We are left with what appears to be a carefully and cleverly crafted piece of artful propaganda against the diagnosis of ADHD and its treatment with Ritalin.

This book accuses leading scientists, physicians, the Food and Drug Administration, NIMH, and established psychiatry and psychology of withholding negative or critical information about stimulant medication and ADHD from the public. Meanwhile, the author does precisely this very same sort of thing himself. Breggin draws upon quotes, facts, figures, and the personal musings of laypeople from many sources in the popular media, all of which are critical of ADHD or stimulant medications like Ritalin. Never is their accuracy or credibility challenged. Yet this book almost ceaselessly criticizes scientific research that supports the validity of ADHD as neurodevelopmental disorder and on the use of stimulant medications as safe and effective treatments. This nit-picking at the petty faults of the clinical studies and the investigators quickly grows tiresome when there is no equally balanced critical treatment of the sources Breggin wishes to cite in support of his own prejudices. It is a lack of balance so lop-sided as to invite disbelief.

Science has shown that ADHD and the other disorders Breggin discusses, including autism, are not the consequence of the causes he cites in his book. And so addressing them is not likely to remedy the child's problems. Neither is avoiding the established scientific and clinical pediatric and mental health professions as Breggin recommends. Breggin's view must be seen for what it actually is -- a not-so-subtle form of parent-bashing that lays the blame for ADHD and other complex developmental and mental disorders at the feet of the child's parents, family, and school. This is outdated psychoanalytic thinking, discarded decades ago by the scientific community for its explanatory uselessness not to mention its cruelty toward parents seeking help for their children.

The propaganda Breggin offers here will be easily dismissed by the scientific and clinical professional communities as having nothing to add to the important issues related to understanding and managing ADHD. But to the lay reader, such misguidance as Breggin provides in Talking Back to Ritalin can do real harm. Breggin literally encourages parents of ADHD and developmentally disordered children to turn away from the established fields of pediatrics, psychiatry, and psychology and the professionals who practice within them. Instead, Breggin instructs parents to seek outdated, unscientific, and ineffective pop-psychological views of disorders and their treatment. What was so dismaying to me as a professional by the end of the book was the knowledge that Dr. Breggin took an oath as a physician to "first, do no harm." In my opinion, his book has violated that sacred oath.

A reader from New England , April 25, 1999 5 out of 5 stars
This is one of the best books I have read on this subject!
This is a brilliant and humanistically oriented analysis of a highly controversial topic. Dr. Breggin clearly documents his conclusions. I highly recommend it to parents, educators and health professionals. Alternatives are offered to the widepread practice of prescribing addictive stimulants to children who have a hypothesized cindition with no known biological markers.

A reader from Boston, MA , February 25, 1999 5 out of 5 stars
Read it first or last-but you must read this important book!
Challenging children exist, yes, but we as parents, teachers and others that work with children must step up to the challenge to give them what they need and move away from labeling and drugging--it is not necessary or effective and is in fact extremely detrimental--as this book so convincingly shows. After reading the full gamut of books (20+) on ADD/ADHD including those with conventional and unconventional views and remedies for the associated behaviors, I had doubts about the validity of ADD/ADHD as a distinct disorder. Dr. Breggin's book validates my doubts with pages of scientific documentation and explains how virtually a whole nation--parents, doctors, mental health professionals and teachers--promote and believe in this concept. It's a must read for anyone involved in ADD/ADHD evaluations/treatments. The book focuses on four areas: the fallacy of ADD/ADHD-including the unscientific method of diagnosis and the misuse of studies used by the advocates of the "disorder"; the documented dangers of Ritalin-- what it does to the brain, why it does not help behavioral problems and the damage it can cause; the politics behind the ADHD/Ritalin lobby; and what parents can do to help their children without labels and drugs. This is such an important book. If you've read the others, you must read this!! Another good book is The Myth of the ADD Child by Thomas Armstrong PhD.

A reader from Chicago, IL , June 4, 1998 5 out of 5 stars
An excellent resource guide for parents and clinicians.
Dr. Breggin provides a comprehensive and very understandable examination of Ritalin and its use in treating behavioral disorders in children. The amount of detail provided into this drug and its weaknesses is excellent and a vital resource to clinicians and parents.

In addition to critically examining this highly touted remedy for ADHD, Dr. Breggin provides insightful and effective alternatives to treating behavioral problems rather than relying on Ritalin. Moreover, a thoughtful and exhaustive review of research is provided regarding the "biological basis" of this disorder is provided.

As a clinician that works with children with the ADHD diagnosis on a dialy basis, I have found this book invaluable. I highly recommend it! --Robert Foltz, M.A.

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