Published by the Truth Seeker Foundation.
The massacre at Columbine High School took place on April 20, 1999. Astonishingly, for eight days after the tragedy, during thousands of hours of prime-time television coverage, virtually no one mentioned the word “drugs.” Then the issue was opened. Eric Harris, one of the shooters at Columbine, was on at least one drug.
The NY Times of April 29, 1999, and other papers reported that Harris was rejected from enlisting in the Marines for medical reasons. A friend of the family told the Times that Harris was being treated by a psychiatrist. And then several sources told the Washington Post that the drug prescribed as treatment was Luvox, manufactured by Solvay.
In two more days, the “drug-issue” was gone.
Luvox is of the same class as Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil. They are labeled SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). They attempt to alleviate depression by changing brain-levels of the natural substance serotonin. Luvox has a slightly different chemical configuration from Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, and it was approved by the FDA for obsessive-compulsive disorder, although many doctors apparently prescribe it for depression.
Had Eric Harris been on other drugs as well? Ritalin? Prozac? Tranquilizers? As yet we don’t know.
Prozac is the wildly popular Eli Lilly antidepressant which has been linked to suicidal and homicidal actions. It is now given to young children. Again, its chemical composition is very close to Luvox, the drug that Harris took.
Dr. Peter Breggin, the eminent psychiatrist and author (Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, Talking Back to Ritalin), told me, “With Luvox there is some evidence of a four-percent rate for mania in adolescents. Mania, for certain individuals, could be a component in grandiose plans to destroy large numbers of other people. Mania can go over the hill to psychosis.”
Dr. Joseph Tarantolo is a psychiatrist in private practice in Washington DC. He is the president of the Washington chapter of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. Tarantolo states that “all the SSRIs [including Prozac and Luvox] relieve the patient of feeling. He becomes less empathic, as in `I don’t care as much,’ which means `It’s easier for me to harm you.’ If a doctor treats someone who needs a great deal of strength just to think straight, and gives him one of these drugs, that could push him over the edge into violent behavior.”
In Arianna Huffington’s syndicated newspaper column of July 9, 1998, Dr. Breggin states, “I have no doubt that Prozac can cause or contribute to violence and suicide. I’ve seen many cases. In a recent clinical trial, 6 percent of the children became psychotic on Prozac. And manic psychosis can lead to violence.”
Huffington follows up on this: “In addition to the case of Kip Kinkel, who had been a user of Prozac [Kinkel was the shooter in the May 21, 1998, Springfield, Oregon, school massacre], there are much less publicized instances where teenagers on Prozac or similar antidepressants have exploded into murderous rages: teenagers like Julie Marie Meade from Maryland who was shot to death by the police when they found her waving a gun at them. Or Ben Garris, a 16-year old in Baltimore who stabbed his counselor to death. Or Kristina Fetters, a 14-year old from Des Moines, Iowa, who stabbed her favorite great aunt in a rage that landed her a life sentence.”
Dr. Tarantolo also has written about Julie Marie Meade. In a column for the ICSPP (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology) News, “Children and Prozac: First Do No Harm,” Tarantolo describes how Julie Meade, in November of 1996, called 911, “begging the cops to come and shoot her. And if they didn’t do it quickly, she would do it to herself. There was also the threat that
she would shoot them as well.”
The police came within a few minutes, “5 of them to be exact, pumping at least 10 bullets into her head and torso.”
Tarantolo remarks that a friend of Julie said Julie “had plans to make the honor roll and go to college. He [the friend] had also observed her taking all those pills.” What pills? Tarantolo called the Baltimore medical examiner, and spoke with Dr. Martin Bullock, who was on a fellowship at that office. Bullock said, “She had been taking Prozac for four years.”
Tarantolo asked Bullock, “Did you know that Prozac has been implicated in impulsive de novo violence and suicidalness?” Bullock said he was not aware of this.
Tarantolo writes, “Had she recently increased the dosage? Was she taking other drugs? Drugs such as Ritalin, cocaine, amphetamine, and tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Pamelor, Elavil) could all potentiate the effect of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors include Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil).”
In layman’s language, mixing these drugs could tinker in ignorance with basic brain chemistry and bring on horrendous violent behavior.
Tarantolo is careful to point out, “A change [in Julie's drug-taking pattern] was not necessary, though, to explain her behavior. Violent and suicidal behavior have been observed both early (a few weeks) and late (many months) in treatment with Prozac.”
The November 23rd, 1996, Washington Post reported the Julie Meade death by shooting. The paper mentioned nothing about Prozac. This was left to a more penetrating newspaper, the local PG County Journal-the Maryland county in which the shooting took place.
Why did the Post never mention Prozac or interview any of a growing number of psychiatrists who have realized the danger of giving these drugs to children (and adults)?
Is it because major media outlets enjoy considerable support from pharmaceutical advertisers? Is it because these companies have been running successful PR campaigns to keep their drugs’ names quiet when suicides and murders are reported?
Another small paper, The Vigo Examiner (Terra Haute, Indiana), looked into the May 21, 1998, murders in Springfield, Oregon. The shooter, who had been on Prozac, Kip Kinkel, was a 15-year-old freshman. First he killed his parents, then walked into his school cafeteria and gunned down fellow students. He killed 2 and wounded 22. He is awaiting trial.
Vigo Examiner reporter Maureen Sielaff covered this story. Showing straightforward independence where many big-time reporters just don’t, Sielaff researched the book, Prozac and Other Psychiatric Drugs, by Lewis A. Opler, MD. She writes, “The following side effects are listed for Prozac: apathy; hallucinations; hostility; irrational ideas; paranoid reactions; antisocial behavior; hysteria; and suicidal thoughts.” An explosive cocktail of symptoms.
A day or two after the Littleton, Colorado, shootings, a teenager in Los Angeles, depressed about Littleton, hung himself. The boy had been under treatment for depression. Did that mean Prozac? Zoloft? Luvox? Will any reporter look into that incident?
The Jonesboro, Arkansas, school shooting took place on March 24, 1998. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, apparently faked a fire alarm at Westside Middle School. Then when everyone came outside, the boys fired from the nearby woods, killing four students and a teacher, wounding 11 other people. Charged as juveniles, the boys were convicted of capital murder and battery. They can be held in jail until they are 21 years old. Dr. Alan Lipman, of Georgetown University, one of the experts interviewed on network television after Littleton, remarked that at least one of the boys who committed murder in Jonesboro had been, before the incident, treated for violent behavior. Treated how? With Prozac, with Zoloft, with a combination of antidepressants? The action of these drugs-altering the supply of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin-is touted by some people as a potential cure for violence. The only problem is, there is no acknowledged proof within the broad psychiatric profession that serotonin is a causative factor in violence. That is an unproven theory.
Not that unproven theories stop the dedicated from experimenting on brains of the young.
We must get a complete review of the medical history of the two Littleton shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
In the aftermath of other school shootings, have parents tried to find answers? With what responses have their efforts been met?
In Olivehurst, California, on May 1, 1992, Eric Houston, 20, killed 4 people and wounded 10 at his former high school. Houston was sentenced to death.
On January 18, 1993, in Grayhurst, Kentucky, Scott Pennington, 17, entered Deanna McDavid’s English class at East Carter High School and shot her in the head. He also shot Marvin Hicks, the school janitor, in the stomach. Pennington was sentenced to life, without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
In Richmond, Virginia, on October 30, 1995, Edward Earl Spellman, 18, shot and wounded 4 students outside their high school.
On February 2, 1996, in an algebra class at Frontier Junior High School in Mose Lake, Washington, Barry Loukaitas, 14, killed his teacher and 2 teen-aged boys with an assault rifle, and wounded a girl. Loukaitas was sentenced to 2 mandatory life terms.
In St. Louis, Missouri, on February 29, 1996, Mark Boyd, 30, fired into a school bus when its doors opened, killed a 15-year-old pregnant girl and wounded the driver.
On July 26, 1996, Yohao Albert, a high-school junior, shot and wounded 2 classmates in a stairwell at his Los Angeles school.
On February 19, 1997, in Bethel, Alaska, Evan Ramsey, 16, shot and killed his high school principal Ron Edwards and one of his classmates, Josh Palacious. Two students were wounded. Ramsey was sentenced to 2 99-year terms. Authorities later accused 2 students of knowing the shootings were
going to happen.
On October 1, 1997, in Pearl, Mississippi, Luke Woodham, 16, started shooting in his school cafeteria. He killed 2 students, including his ex-girlfriend, and wounded 7 others. He also killed his mother. Woodham was sentenced to life. Authorities later accused 6 friends of conspiracy.
On December 1, 1997, at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal, 14, found students coming out of a prayer meeting. Using a stolen pistol, he shot 8 of these students and killed 3. One of the wounded girls is paralyzed.
On December 15, 1997, in Stamps, Arkansas, Joseph Todd, 14, was arrested in the shooting of 2 students outside their high school. The students recovered from their wounds. Todd faces trial.
In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, on April 24, 1998, Andrew Wurst, 14, allegedly shot and killed his science teacher, John Gillette, at the JW Parker Middle School at an 8th grade dance. Two students and another teacher were wounded. Wurst is awaiting trial.
In Fayetteville, Tennessee, on May 19, 1998, several days before graduation, Jacob Davis, 18, allegedly shot and killed Robert Creson, a classmate at Lincoln County High School. Creson was dating Davis’ ex-girlfriend. Davis, who was an honor student, awaits trial.
Try to find major media coverage of these crimes that carefully examines the medical-drug history of the perpetrators and establishes whether or not they were on drugs that could significantly contribute to violence.
A CNN story, dated May 21, 1998, authored by its Justice Dept. correspondent, Pierre Thomas, offered the following statistics: “Ten percent of the nation’s schools reported one or more violent crimes in the 1996-1997 school year, including murder, suicide, rape, robbery and fights involving weapons.” Even if these Justice Dept. figures are self-serving and overblown, they point to a chilling landscape.
The availability (to children) of guns is a cause. No question.
The saturation of violence on TV is a cause. No question.
The breakup of families is a cause. No question. So is outright child abuse.
The compartmentalization of children from their parents is a cause.
The absence of a good education is a cause.
The growing poverty and its atmosphere of hopelessness in America is a cause.
The presence of lunatic ideologies (Nazism, Satanism) in the landscape is a factor.
You can’t assign numbers to these causes. You can’t say one of the above is a 23% cause or a 3% cause.
But is there another factor in pushing kids over the edge? Are some children, angry and desperate and in proximity to weapons, who are nevertheless quite able to maintain moral equilibrium, being jolted by chemicals which are scrambling their brains and intensifying their impulses and amplifying their dark thoughts?
The bulk of American media appears afraid to go after psychiatric drugs as a cause. This fear stems, in part, from the sure knowledge that expert attack dogs are waiting in the wings, funded by big-time pharmaceutical companies. There are doctors and researchers as well who have seen a dark truth about these drugs in the journals, but are afraid to stand up and speak out. After all, the medical culture punishes no one as severely as its own defectors, when defection from the party line threatens profits and careers and reputations, when defection alerts the public that deadly effects could be emanating from corporate boardrooms.
And what of the federal government itself? The FDA licenses every drug released for public use and certifies that it is safe and effective. If a real tornado started at the public level, if the mothers of the young killers and young victims began to see a terrible knowledge swim into view, a knowledge they hadn’t imagined, and if THEY joined forces, the earth would shake.
After commenting on some of the adverse effects of the antidepressant drug Prozac, psychiatrist Peter Breggin notes, “From the initial studies, it was also apparent that a small percentage of Prozac patients became psychotic.”
Prozac, in fact, endured a rocky road in the press for a time. Stories on it rarely appear now. The major media have backed off. But on February 7th, 1991, Amy Marcus’ Wall Street Journal article on the drug carried the headline, “Murder Trials Introduce Prozac Defense.” She wrote, “A spate of murder trials in which defendants claim they became violent when they took the antidepressant Prozac are imposing new problems for the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly and Co.”
Also on February 7, 1991, the New York Times ran a Prozac piece headlined, “Suicidal Behavior Tied Again to Drug: Does Antidepressant Prompt Violence?”
In his landmark book, Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Breggin mentions that the Donahue show (Feb. 28, 1991) “put together a group of individuals who had become compulsively self-destructive and murderous after taking Prozac and the clamorous telephone and audience response confirmed the problem.”
Breggin also cites a troubling study from the February 1990 American Journal of Psychiatry (Teicher et al, v.147:207-210) which reports on “six depressed patients, previously free of recent suicidal ideation, who developed `intense, violent suicidal preoccupations after 2-7 weeks of fluoxetine [Prozac] treatment.’ The suicidal preoccupations lasted from three days to three months after termination of the treatment. The report estimates that 3.5 percent of Prozac users were at risk. While denying the validity of the study, Dista Products, a division of Eli Lilly, put out a brochure for doctors dated August 31, 1990, stating that it was adding `suicidal ideation’ to the adverse events section of its Prozac product information.”
An earlier study, from the September 1989 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, by Joseph Lipiniski, Jr., indicates that in five examined cases people on Prozac developed what is called akathesia. Symptoms include intense anxiety, inability to sleep, the “jerking of extremities,” and “bicycling in bed or just turning around and around.” Breggin comments that akathesia “may also contribute to the drug’s tendency to cause self-destructive or violent tendencies … Akathesia can become the equivalent of biochemical torture and could possibly tip someone over the edge into self-destructive or violent behavior … The June 1990 Health Newsletter, produced by the Public Citizen Research Group, reports, ‘Akathesia, or symptoms of restlessness, constant pacing, and purposeless movements of the feet and legs, may occur in 10-25 percent of patients on Prozac.’”
The well-known publication, California Lawyer, in a December 1998 article called “Protecting Prozac,” details some of the suspect maneuvers of Eli Lilly in its handling of suits against Prozac. California Lawyer also mentions other highly qualified critics of the drug: “David Healy, MD, an internationally renowned psychopharmacologist, has stated in sworn deposition that `contrary to Lilly’s view, there is a plausible cause-and-effect relationship between Prozac’ and suicidal-homicidal events. An epidemiological study published in 1995 by the British Medical Journal also links Prozac to increased suicide risk.”
When pressed, proponents of these SSRI drugs sometimes say, “Well, the benefits for the general population far outweigh the risk,” or, “Maybe in one or two tragic cases the dosage prescribed was too high.” But the problem will not go away on that basis. A shocking review-study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases (1996, v.184, no.2), written by Rhoda L. Fisher and Seymour Fisher, called “Antidepressants for Children,” concludes: “Despite unanimous literature of double-blind studies indicating that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos in treating depression in children and adolescents, such medications continue to be in wide use.”
In wide use. This despite such contrary information and the negative, dangerous effects of these drugs.
There are other studies: “Emergence of self-destructive phenomena in children and adolescents during fluoxetine treatment,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1991, vol.30), written by RA King, RA Riddle, et al. It reports self-destructive phenomena in 14% (6/42) of children and adolescents (10-17 years old) who had treatment with fluoxetine (Prozac) for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
July, 1991. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Hisako Koizumi, MD, describes a thirteen-year-old boy who was on Prozac: “full of energy,” “hyperactive,” “clown-like.” All this devolved into sudden violent actions which were “totally unlike him.”
September, 1991. The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Author Laurence Jerome reports the case of a ten-year old who moves with his family to a new location. Becoming depressed, the boy is put on Prozac by a doctor. The boy is then “hyperactive, agitated … irritable.” He makes a “somewhat grandiose assessment of his own abilities.” Then he calls a stranger on the phone and says he is going to kill him. The Prozac is stopped, and the symptoms disappear.
Recently I spoke with a psychologist at a major university about the possibility that Prozac could have provoked some of the school shootings. He said, “Well, in the case of Columbine High School, that couldn’t have been the case. The boy had a whole plan there. Prozac is more of an impulse-causer.” I said, “Suppose the plan was in the realm of a maybe-fantasy and then Prozac pushed the whole thing over the edge.” After a pause he said, “Yes, that could be.” As mentioned above, grandiose ideas can be generated by a person taking Prozac, and in the literature there is also mention of a “delusional system” being the outcome in a case of a patient on the drug.
A December 1, 1996, newswire story from Cox News Service, by Gary Kane, states, “Scores of young men and women across the country are learning that the Ritalin they took as teen-agers is stopping them from serving their country or starting a military career.”
Kane continues, “All branches of the armed forces reject potential enlistees who use Ritalin or similar behavior-modifying medications … And people who took Ritalin as teen-agers to treat ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], an inhibitor of academic skills, are rejected from military service, even if they no longer take the medication.”
Was this the case with Eric Harris? Was he rejected by the Marines only because of the Luvox, or was Ritalin use, past or present, involved as well?
Ritalin, manufactured by Novartis, is the close cousin to speed which is given to perhaps two million American schoolchildren for a condition called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). ADD and ADHD, for which no organic causes have ever been found, are touted as disease-conditions that afflict the young, causing hyperactivity, unmanageability, and learning problems. Of course, when you name a disorder or a syndrome and yet can find no single provable organic cause for it, you have nothing more than a loose collection of behaviors with an arbitrary title.
Correction: you also have a pharmaceutical bonanza.
Dr. Breggin, referring to an official directory of psychiatric disorders, the DSM-III-R, writes that withdrawal from amphetamine-type drugs, including Ritalin, can cause “depression, anxiety, and irritability as well as sleep problems, fatigue, and agitation.” Breggin then remarks, “The individual may become suicidal in response to the depression.”
The well-known Goodman and Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics reveals a strange fact. It states that Ritalin is “structurally related to amphetamines … Its pharmacological properties are essentially the same as those of the amphetamines.” In other words, the only clear difference is legality. And the effects, in layman’s terms, are obvious. You take speed and after awhile, sooner or later, you start crashing. You become agitated, irritable, paranoid, delusional, aggressive.
A firm and objective medical review needs to be done in all of the school shootings, to determine how many of the shooters were on, or had at one time been on, Ritalin.
In Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Breggin discusses the subject of drug combinations: “Combining antidepressants [e.g., Prozac, Luvox] and psychostimulants [e.g., Ritalin] increases the risk of cardiovascular catastrophe, seizures, sedation, euphoria, and psychosis. Withdrawal from the combination can cause a severe reaction that includes confusion, emotional instability, agitation, and aggression.” Children are frequently medicated with this combination, and when we highlight such effects as aggression, psychosis, and emotional instability, it is obvious that the result is pointing toward the very real possibility of violence.
In 1986, The International Journal of the Addictions published a most important literature review by Richard Scarnati. It was called “An Outline of Hazardous Side Effects of Ritalin (Methylphenidate”) [v.21(7), pp. 837-841].
Scarnati listed over a hundred adverse affects of Ritalin and indexed published journal articles for each of these symptoms.
For every one of the following (selected and quoted verbatim) Ritalin effects then, there is at least one confirming source in the medical literature:
• Paranoid delusions
• Paranoid psychosis
• Hypomanic and manic symptoms, amphetamine-like psychosis
• Activation of psychotic symptoms
• Toxic psychosis
• Visual hallucinations
• Auditory hallucinations
• Can surpass LSD in producing bizarre experiences
• Effects pathological thought processes
• Extreme withdrawal
• Terrified affect
• Started screaming
• Since Ritalin is considered an amphetamine-type drug, expect amphatamine-like effects
• psychic dependence
• High-abuse potential DEA Schedule II Drug
• Decreased REM sleep
• When used with antidepressants one may see dangerous reactions including hypertension, seizures and hypothermia
• Brain damage may be seen with amphetamine abuse.
Many parents around the country have discovered that Ritalin has become a condition for their children continuing in school. There are even reports, by parents, of threats from social agencies: “If you don’t allow us to prescribe Ritalin for your ADD child, we may decide that you are an unfit parent. We may decide to take your child away.”
This mind-boggling state of affairs is fueled by teachers, principals, and school counselors, none of whom have medical training.
Yet the very definition of the “illnesses” for which Ritalin would be prescribed is in doubt, especially at the highest levels of the medical profession. This doubt, however, has not filtered down to most public schools.
In commenting on Dr. Lawrence Diller’s book, Running on Ritalin, Dr. William Carey, Director of Behavioral Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has written, “Dr. Diller has correctly described … the disturbing trend of blaming children’s social, behavioral, and academic performance problems entirely on an unproven brain deficit…”
On November 16-18, 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health held the prestigious “NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD].” The conference was explicitly aimed at ending all debate about the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, and about the prescription of Ritalin. It was hoped that at the highest levels of medical research and bureaucracy, a clear position would be taken: this is what ADHD is, this is where it comes from, and these are the drugs it should be treated with. That didn’t happen, amazingly. Instead, the official panel responsible for drawing conclusions from the conference threw cold water on the whole attempt to reach a comfortable consensus.
Panel member Mark Vonnegut, a Massachusetts pediatrician, said, “The diagnosis [of ADHD] is a mess.”
The panel essentially said it was not sure ADHD was even a “valid” diagnosis. In other words, ADD and ADHD might be nothing more than attempts to categorize certain children’s behaviors-with no organic cause, no clear-cut biological basis, no provable reason for even using the ADD or ADHD labels.
The panel found “no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction [which malfunction had been the whole psychiatric assumption].”
The panel found that Ritalin has not been shown to have long-term benefits. In fact, the panel stated that Ritalin has resulted in “little improvement on academic achievement or social skills.”
Panel chairman, David Kupfer, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “There is no current validated diagnostic test [for ADHD].”
Yet at every level of public education in America, there remains what can only be called a voracious desire to give children Ritalin (or other similar drugs) for ADD or ADHD.
Nullifying the warnings, assurances and prescriptions doctors routinely give to parents of children who have been diagnosed ADD or ADHD should be a national goal.
The following pronouncement makes a number of things clear: The 1994 Textbook of Psychiatry, published by the American Psychiatric Press, contains this review (Popper and Steingard)-”Stimulants [such as Ritalin] do not produce lasting improvements in aggressivity, conduct disorder, criminality, education achievement, job functioning, marital relationships, or long-term adjustment.”
Parents should also wake up to the fact that, in the aftermath of the Littleton, Colorado, tragedy, pundits and doctors are urging more extensive “mental health” services for children. Fine, except whether you have noticed it or not, this no longer means, for the most part, therapy with a caring professional. It means drugs. It means the drugs I am discussing in this inquiry.
In December 1996, the US Drug Enforcement Agency held a conference on ADHD and Ritalin. Surprisingly, it issued a sensible statement about drugs being a bad substitute for the presence of caring parents: “[T]he use of stimulants [such as Ritalin] for the short-term improvement of behavior and underachievement may be thwarting efforts to address the children’s real issues, both on an individual and societal level. The lack of long-term positive results with the use of stimulants and the specter of previous and potential stimulant abuse epidemics, give cause to worry about the future. The dramatic increase in the use of methylphenidate [Ritalin] in the 1990s should be viewed as a marker or warning to society about the problems children are having and how we view and address them.”
The Brookhaven National Laboratory has studied Ritalin through PET scans. Lab researchers have found that the drug decreased the flow of blood to all parts of the brain by 20-30%.
That is of course a very negative finding. It is a signal of danger.
But parents, teachers, counselors, principals, school psychologists know nothing about this. Nor do they know that cocaine produces the same blood-flow effect.
In his book, Talking Back to Ritalin, Peter Breggin expands on the drug’s effects: “Stimulants such as Ritalin and amphetamine … have grossly harmful impacts on the brain-reducing overall blood flow, disturbing glucose metabolism, and possibly causing permanent shrinkage or atrophy of the brain.”
In the wake of the Littleton shooting, we find that “the American people” and lawyers and pundits and child psychologists are pointing the finger at Hollywood, at video games like Doom, at inattentive parents, and at the availability of guns. We have to wonder why almost no one is calling out these drugs.
Is it possible that the work of PR people is shaping the national response?
An instructive article, “Protecting Prozac,” by Michael Grinfeld, in the December 1998 California Lawyer, opens several doors. Grinfeld notes that “in the past year nearly a dozen cases involving Prozac have disappeared from the court record.” He is talking about law suits against the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, and he is saying that these cases have apparently been settled, without trial, in such a quiet and final way, with such strict confidentiality, that it is almost as if they never happened.
This smoothness, this invisibility keeps the press away and also, most importantly, does not encourage other people to come out of the woodwork with lawyers and Prozac horror-stories of their own. Because they are not reading about $2 million or $10 million or $50 million settlements paid out by Lilly.
Grinfeld details a set of maneuvers involving attorney Paul Smith, who in the early 1990s became the lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the famous Fentress case against Eli Lilly. The case made the accusation that Prozac had induced murder. This was the first action involving Prozac to reach a trial and jury, so it would establish a major precedent for a large number of other pending suits against the manufacturer.
After what many people thought was a very weak attack on Lilly by lawyer Smith, the jury came back in five hours with an easy verdict favoring Lilly and Prozac.
Grinfeld writes, “Lilly’s defense attorneys predicted the verdict would be the death knell for [anti-]Prozac litigation.”
But that wasn’t the end of the Fentress case, even though Smith-to the surprise of many-didn’t appeal it. “Rumors began to circulate that Smith had made several [prior] oral agreements with Lilly concerning the evidence that would be presented [in Fentress], the structure of a postverdict settlement, and the potential resolution of Smith’s other [anti-Prozac] cases.”
In other words, the rumors said: This lawyer made a deal with Lilly to present a weak attack, to omit evidence damaging to Prozac, so that the jury would find Lilly innocent of all charges. In return for this, the case would be settled secretly, with Lilly paying out monies to Smith’s client. In this way, Lilly would avoid the exposure of a public settlement, and through the innocent verdict would discourage other potential plaintiffs from suing it over Prozac.
The rumors congealed. The judge in the Fentress case, John Potter, asked lawyers on both sides if “money had changed hands.” He wanted to know if the fix was in. The lawyers said no money had been paid, “without acknowledging that an agreement was in place.”
Judge Potter didn’t stop there. In April 1995, Grinfeld notes, “In court papers, Potter wrote that he was surprised that the plaintiffs’ attorneys [Smith] hadn’t introduced evidence that Lilly had been charged criminally for failing to report deaths from another of its drugs to the Food and Drug Administration. Smith had fought hard [during the Fentress trial] to convince Potter to admit that evidence, and then unaccountably withheld it.”
In Judge Potter’s motion, he alleged that “Lilly [in the Fentress case] sought to buy not just the verdict, but the court’s judgment as well.”
In 1996, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued an opinion on all this: “… there was a serious lack of candor with the trial court [during Fentress] and there may have been deception, bad faith conduct, abuse of the judicial process or perhaps even fraud.”
After the Supreme Court remanded the Fentress case back to the state attorney general’s office, the whole matter dribbled away, and then resurfaced in a different form, in another venue. At the time of the California Lawyer article, a new action against Smith was unresolved.
If Lilly went to extreme lengths to control suits against Prozac, it stands to reason that drug companies could also try to deflect legal actions by influencing how the press, lawyers, and public view these school shootings. For example, accusing video games is acceptable, accusing guns is acceptable, accusing bad parents is acceptable. In fact, these causes, as I stated above, are legitimate. But when the national press is completely silent on medical drugs, we have to question the background on that. We have to. We have to ask, why should THIS horrendous factor be eliminated altogether from reporting to the nation?
The PBS television series, The Merrow Report, produced in 1996 a program called “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Dubious Diagnosis?” The Educational Writer’s Association awarded the program first prize for investigative reporting in that year. I can recall no other piece of television journalism since the Vietnam war which has managed to capture on film government officials in the act of realizing that they have made serious mistakes.
John Merrow, the series’ host, explains that, unknown to the public, there has been “a long-term, unpublicized financial relationship between the company that makes the most widely known ADD medication [Ritalin] and the nation’s largest ADD support group.”
The group is CHADD, based in Florida. CHADD stands for Children and Adults with ADD. Its 650 local chapters sponsor regional conferences and monthly meetings-often held at schools. It educates thousands of families about ADD and ADHD and gives out free medical advice. This advice features the drug Ritalin.
Since 1988, when CHADD and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), the manufacturer of Ritalin, began their financial relationship, Ciba has given almost a million dollars to CHADD, helping it to expand its membership from 800 to 35,000 people.
Merrow interviews several parents whose children are on Ritalin, parents who have been relying on CHADD for information. They are clearly taken aback when they learn that CHADD obtains a significant amount of its funding from the drug company that makes Ritalin.
CHADD has used Ciba money to promote its pharmaceutical message through a public service announcement produced for television. Nineteen million people have seen this PSA. As Merrow says, “CHADD’s name is on it, but Ciba Geigy paid for it.”
It turns out that in all of CHADD’s considerable literature written for the public, there is rare mention of Ciba. In fact, the only instance of the connection Merrow could find on the record was a small-print citation on an announcement of a single CHADD conference.
In recounting CHADD’s promotion of drug “therapy” for ADD, Merrow says, “CHADD’s literature also says psychostimulant medications [like Ritalin] are not addictive.”
Merrow brings this up to Gene Haslip, a Drug Enforcement Agency official in Washington. Haslip is visibly annoyed. “Well,” he says, “I think that’s very misleading. It’s [Ritalin's] certainly a drug that can cause a very high degree of dependency, like all of the very potent stimulants.”
Merrow reveals that CHADD received a $750,000 grant from the US Dept. of Education, in 1996, to produce a video, Facing the Challenge of ADD. The video doesn’t just mention the generic name methylphenidate, it announces the drug by its brand name, Ritalin. This, at government (taxpayer) expense.
We see a press conference announcing the release of the video. The CHADD president presents an award to Dr. Thomas Hehir, Director of Special Education Programs at the US Dept. of Education.
This sets the stage for a conversation between Merrow and Dr. Hehir, providing a rare moment when discovery of the truth is recorded on camera, when PR is swept aside.
MERROW: “Are you aware that most of the people in the film [the video, Facing the Challenge of ADD-referring to people who are giving testimonials about how their ADD children have been helped by treatment] are not just members of CHADD … but in the CHADD leadership, including the former national president? They’re all board members of CHADD in Chicago. Are you aware of that? They’re not identified in the film.”
HEHIR: “I’m not aware of that.”
MERROW: “Do you know about the financial connection between CHADD and Ciba Geigy, the company that makes Ritalin?”
HEHIR: “I do not.”
MERROW: “In the last six years, CHADD has received $818,000 in grants from Ciba Geigy.”
HEHIR: “I did not know that.”
MERROW: “Does that strike you as a potential conflict of interest?”
HEHIR: “That strikes me as a potential conflict of interest. Yes it does.”
MERROW: “Now, that’s not disclosed either. Even though the film talks about Ritalin as a-one way, and it’s the first way presented-of taking care of treating Attention Deficit Disorder. That’s not disclosed either. Does that trouble you?”
HEHIR: “Um, it concerns me.”
MERROW: “Are you going to look into this, when you go back to your office?”
HEHIR: “I certainly will look into some of the things you’ve brought up.”
MERROW: “Should they have told you that all those people in that film are CHADD leadership? Should they have told you that CHADD gets twenty percent of its money from the people who make Ritalin?”
HEHIR: “I should have known that.”
MERROW: “They should have told you.”
This funded video, in which CHADD devotes all of twenty seconds to mentioning Ritalin’s adverse effects, is no longer distributed by the US Department of Education.
CHADD has now told its members that it receives funding from Ciba. It says it will continue to take money from Ciba.
This is an example of how a corporation can, behind the scenes, bend and shape the way the public sees reality.
In the case of the school shootings, has an attempt been made to mold media response? To highlight various causes and omit others?
Real action is going to have to come from the public. Mothers in Littleton and Springfield and West Paducah and Jonesboro are going to have to ask the hard questions and become relentless about getting real answers. They are going to have to learn about these drugs. They’ll have to learn which violent children in the school shootings were on these drugs. They are going to have to throw off robotic obedience to authorities in white coats. And they are going to have to join together.
If they do, many people will end up standing with them.
POSTSCRIPT (circa 2001)
Since this inquiry was published in early May 1999, I have had requests to include more information about Ritalin. Mothers have told me they need whatever they can get their hands on, in order to deal with teachers, school principals, school boards, and government agencies who are determined to force Ritalin on their children.
To begin with, I would suggest that these concerned and embattled parents write letters to many medical and psychiatric and law-enforcement officials of high standing, asking for a definitive answer to the questions: Is it legal to pressure us with threats? Can my child be kept out of school if I refuse Ritalin? A background of on-the-record No’s can be used to enlighten the ignorant.
Let’s start with the first listed symptoms of the condition officially named Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).* For this I am consulting the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.
[ *In a domain of embarrassingly crude definitions, ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are more or less equivalent. ADHD is the larger, more opulent land-vehicle which has replaced the older mini-van, ADD. ]
“Individuals with this disorder [ADHD] may fail to give close attention to details or may make careless mistakes in schoolwork or other tasks (Criterion A1a).”
“Work is often messy and performed carelessly and without considered thought… (Criterion A1b).”
“They [students] often appear as if their mind [sic] is elsewhere or as if they are not listening or did not hear what has just been said (Criterion A1c).”
The reader immediately assumes that, although these symptoms are vague and could stem from many reasons on many different days of the week, the whole business must somehow be attached to a central underpinning, one thing from which the diverse behaviors arise, like debris floating on the sea from a ship that has already sunk.
But, staying with the DSM-IV, under a nearby section called “Associated laboratory findings,” we read: “There are no laboratory tests that have been established as diagnostic in the clinical assessment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”
So although behaviors are offered as signs of ADHD, no organic cause is named.
Despite that, an official psychiatric disorder, ADHD, has, in the absolutely official DSM-IV, been catalogued and presented as needing medication.
But without a central cause, basic logic dictates, there is no assurance of a Disorder.
Comes then, in the DSM-IV, a sub-category of ADHD called Conduct Disorder, the invention of which, as a “disease,” communicates a degree of utter fabrication that is stunning.
“The essential feature of Conduct Disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated. These behaviors fall into four main groupings: aggressive conduct that causes or threatens physical harm to other people or animals (Criteria A1-A7), non-aggressive conduct that causes property loss or damage…”
Again, no cause. No microorganism, no chemical imbalance, no brain malfunction. Just a bald kidnapping of certain kinds of bad behavior under the title of “medical problem.”
“What we have here is an illness.”
“Really? What’s the cause?”
“Well… we don’t know.”
“Then how do you know it’s an illness?”
“Because people have it.”
“You mean they behave in various ways.”
Conduct Disorder is superseded in transparency only by another ADHD category, Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Why not form up an infant condition called Frowning and imply it has a single invariable biological root?
There are gentle members of our society who pray and believe that the authorities really do have a clue because they simply must. Because otherwise the whole so-called mental health edifice might come crashing down around our ears.
In the gold-plated PDR, the Physician’s Desk Reference for 1999, under the drug Ritalin (methylphenidate), we are cautioned: “Specific etiology (causation) of this syndrome [ADHD] is unknown, and there is no single diagnostic test.”
Again. Define a disease without knowing what causes it. And, give a drug (Ritalin) for it.
To know that something is a disease is to know the cause.
Otherwise, and certainly as time goes on, you cannot say you have a disease at all. You can only say you have a series of loosely connected or similar behaviors or symptoms, and you suspect there may be a single agent bringing them all about. You have a feeling. You have a hunch. A premonition. Faith.
On that basis, should over two million American children be treated with Ritalin for ADHD?
The 1999 PDR states, “Sufficient data on safety and efficacy of long-term use of Ritalin in children are not yet available.” That is a staggering remark. Particularly on the safety side.
The first tier of adverse effects listed for Ritalin in the PDR includes: nervousness, insomnia, hypersensitivity (including skin rash), fever, necrotizing vasculitis, anorexia, nausea, dizziness, palpitation, dyskinesia, tachycardia, angina, cardiac arrhythmia. These effects are rounded out by Tourette’s syndrome and toxic psychosis.
Again, Goodman and Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics states that Ritalin is “structurally related to amphetamines… Its pharmacological properties are essentially the same as those of the amphetamines.”
A parent said to me, “You mean the doctor is prescribing speed for my son?”
I referred her to the above quote a number of times. Perhaps with sufficient chanting of it she will finally get the message.
Any drug counselor can tell you about speed: it makes some people feel better for a little while. Your head clears up. You function more clearly. You have confidence. Then that all disintegrates and you slowly or quickly crash. You develop very negative symptoms. (See Scarnati above.)
This is not complicated. Ritalin is speed dressed up as a medicine. Users frequently go on to other drugs to even themselves out. They become aggressive, they have physical problems.
One parent told me her doctor assured her that “many children are helped by Ritalin.” When she asked him for names and statistics he smiled and said, “I’m not in the business of supplying proof to every question. I wouldn’t have time to practice medicine.” She continued to press him. She asked him if he was aware that the PDR cannot offer proof of the safety of Ritalin over the long-term. He said, “What do you want me to do?” “Not give the drug,” she said. He promptly ended the conversation. It not being on the clock.
For some people, the corporation itself, the manufacturer of a pharmaceutical, is the ultimate referral point, the final back-up for believing in the safety and efficacy of the drug. Along with the FDA, which is held inviolate by many, the company emanates an aura of honorable purpose. As in, how could a drug corporation spend decades turning out these medicines if they weren’t Good?
The original patent-holder and principal manufacturer of Ritalin is Ciba-Geigy, whose headquarters are in Switzerland. C-G is now Novartis, having merged with Sandoz, but I shall continue to call the company Ciba, for historical purposes.
In addition to my comments above on CHADD, the Ciba-financed ADHD support-group, let’s take this a little further. Has Ciba ever been involved with another drug which was shown to have profoundly negative effects? In other words, should the corporation’s prior reputation inspire naive faith?
In the autumn of 1970, the Japanese government banned the use of all medical drugs in Japan which contained the compound called clioquinol. These antidiarrheal medications were manufactured under a variety of names by Ciba.
More than 11,000 people in Japan had suffered from the effects of clioquinol between 1955 and 1970. Some of the symptoms: numbness, blindness, paralysis, death.
There was a smokescreen between clioquinol and the Japanese discovering that the drug was the cause of what was being called subacute myelo-optic neuropathy (SMON). The medical establishment was bent in the direction of looking for germs.
Eventually, through the courageous work of several researchers and a lawyer, the truth was exposed.
But Ciba knew as early as 1935 that there were serious problems with clioquinol. Reports had come in from Argentina, where the compound was introduced as an oral preparation for the first time. The same symptoms which much later surfaced in Japan were being cited in Argentina.
Animal tests – as misleading as they are – are relied on by pharmaceutical companies. In the case of clioquinol, Ciba found in the late 1930s that cats were convulsing and sometimes dying from the drug. Dogs were dying from seizures.
Dr. Olle Hanson, a Swedish researcher, published a paper in The Lancet in 1966, linking optic atrophy and blindness to clioquinol.
Ciba did nothing.
Victims of the drug in Japan began to sue Ciba in 1972. It took 6 years to wring an apology and dollar damages out of the company.
Yet Ciba issued a press release in 1980 on SMON, saying “there is no conclusive evidence that clioquinol causes SMON.” In fact, the company continued to manufacture and sell drugs containing clioquinol in other countries.
Ciba dragged its feet until 1985, at which time it stopped manufacturing clioquinol for oral use. (This piece of history about clioquinol and Ciba comes from several sources, including the excellent information gathering organization, Health Action International, based in Amsterdam, and one of its lead writers, Andrew Chetley.)
With ADHD, the developing premise that there was one condition at the heart of all the symptoms was the error. It is an error that is made every day in hundreds of labs around the world. Begin from the other end. Jimmy is fidgety. He can’t sit still in class. He yells when he should be quiet. He draws elephants when he should be adding numbers. He walks around when he should sit down. He does cartwheels in the hall.
Imagine a good doctor interviewing Jimmy. For several hours, perhaps, over several appointments. He wants to know all about the boy. Is he bored? Is he feeling nervous in school? Is there someone he’s afraid of? Is there a subject he really wants to study that is not being offered? Does he have a buried talent? Is he eating various junk foods that contain chemicals and preservatives which might be producing anxiety? Does he have serious allergies? Are his parents absent or abusive? And so on down the list, a very long list.
I have been told of several instances of so-called ADHD resolved when, for example, correct changes were made in the foods and nutrients children ate.
To this claim, psychiatrists often say, “That’s ridiculous. Nutrition has nothing to do with it, because ADHD is a brain malfunction.” Of course that is arrogantly begging the question, and the same arrogance can be gleaned simply by opening up the DSM-IV and reading the sentences about ADHD. They are rife with deductions based on unproven assumptions, all concocted at a great emotional distance from children.
No, it’s one child at a time. One child at a time. That’s the way to be a decent human being and a decent practitioner, instead of talking nonsense from a very high cathedral.
There are enough relentless mothers of children out there to open up new land, to change the damaging way this whole business is being handled. And in the process, they might make Ciba and other similar entities pay dearly for their misdeeds.
As one doctor has written, if a school official or doctor says that your child must take Ritalin because he has ADHD, you have the right to demand proof that ADHD is a disease in the first place. You have a right to demand such proof all the way down the line, without backing away, without buying bland assurances or arrogant threats from “highly educated experts.” You have the right to state that the doctor in question is stepping over the line into violating informed consent statutes, because those laws insist that the patient is told the whole truth about what is going to be done to him and why. You have the right to say the demand that your child take Ritalin is an instance of medical malpractice.
It is your choice.
It always is.
What follows is based on a series of conversations between educated mothers and their doctors about Ritalin and ADHD. I’ve paraphrased the mothers’ reports and telescoped them into one short conversation.
“My son needs medicine?”
“Yes. Ritalin. He has ADHD.”
“But I understand there is no proof that ADHD is a disease.”
“We know it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.”
“But I’ve read that no definite cause has been found.”
“We’re still looking for that.”
“So it might be something else. My son might have problems that come from another source.”
“No, he has ADHD.”
“I’ve read the definition of ADHD in the DSM-IV. It’s a list of behaviors. They might come from a lot of different causes.”
“Who have you been talking to?”
“I’ve been reading.”
“ADHD is a disease.”
“A disease has a cause, Doctor. Otherwise there’s no way of knowing it’s one disease.”
“It takes time to learn all about diseases.”
“No. You have to know the cause. Otherwise you don’t know you have a disease to begin with. My son could be hyperactive because of a hundred things. He could have allergies.”
“There isn’t any literature on that.”
“I’ve talked to a number of health practitioners, and they tell me in some cases allergies caused the hyperactivity.”
“Rarely. Your son has ADHD. It’s like any other disease. Diabetes, for example. He needs medicine.”
“Nonsense. And besides, Ritalin is speed.”
“It’s a medicine.”
“I don’t want my son treated with it.”
“You’re being negligent.”
“According to what?”
“The psychiatric research on this subject.”
“I have research that says ADHD is not a disease and that Ritalin can have very harmful effects.”
“You’re being resistent.”
“No, I’m being careful. It’s my son’s life. You want to tell him that he has a malady and that his brain is involved. That’s going to give him the idea that something is wrong with him. That he’s less than normal. I won’t let you do that unless you can show me the exact place where it says Ritalin is caused by a particular thing. I know you can’t show me that.”
“You’re being stubborn. You can’t just walk away from this.”
“Giving him Ritalin is walking away from it.”
“You know, the reason there are doctors is because we have skills and knowledge about these things. You don’t.”
“I’ve read enough of the literature. I can understand it when no cause is given, when a bunch of behaviors are suddenly labeled a disease. That’s bad medicine.”
“We’re getting nowhere.”
“You should go back to the basic literature on ADHD. It’s made up of words that show no real proof. It’s my son. Until you can show me that ADHD has an organic cause, and that Ritalin cures that, or changes it for the better, you won’t get my okay.”
“You’re causing your son harm by this attitude.”
“No, I’m protecting him.”
“The people in charge at his school won’t think that. They’ll be very upset.”
“So I should give in to them because they’re upset? I don’t think so.”
“They might not let your son back in school.”
“Then I’ll sue them and anyone else who contributes to that decision.”
“You’d be up against very powerful people.”
“I’m not raising my son to be a coward, and I won’t be one either.”
“You know, most parents agree to treatment immediately.”
“They’re relieved about avoiding any involvement, any responsibility. Or they’re just relieved to hear a doctor say it isn’t their fault. They’re tired and worn out and they want a pill to do the job. I know fifty kids at school who are on Ritalin, and I know things their parents could be doing as parents that would calm their kids down. Without drugs. In some cases that means being better parents. In some cases it means exploring their environment.”
“Environment? What does that mean?”
“Chemicals that disturb the functioning of the body and the nervous system. Toxins, pollutants, chemicals in the food. Allergies. Lots of things.”
“No research points to those as the cause of ADHD.”
“Because the research I’m talking about isn’t usually carried on under the banner of ADHD. ADHD is just a name. It’s very misleading and has caused a lot of confusion…”
“You’re a troublemaker.”
“Listen, Doctor, this comes down to a question of rights. Do I have the right, the civil and human right to refuse Ritalin for my child. I’m informed. I’m aware. I’m not stupid. It’s my choice, regardless of what you think.”
One of the mothers told me she was “referred” for psychological counseling because she refused to allow Ritalin for her child. This referring was done by her child’s pediatrician. The mother refused the counseling.
So to summarize: over a period of years, psychiatrists doing “research” collect child behaviors and assemble them into an interlocking list. They call this list ADHD, although no cause has been found, and they determine that a drug whose properties are essentially the same as amphetamine, Ritalin, should be used to treat the disease. When a parent refuses to allow the drug to be given, he or she may be referred for counseling. This “therapy” would presumably involve digging up the “real reasons” for the parent’s resistance. What is the parent harboring that prevents him/her from wanting the child to get better? Or, to put it another way, how can “licensed professionals” convince a parent to abandon all semblance of rationality and pretend that, deep down, the desire to protect a child from a dangerous drug is really a neurosis, a phobia, a fragment of pathology perhaps itself requiring medication?
Which proves that not all cold-blooded species live out of town.
As this postscript goes to press, we read in the May 22nd New York Times that T. J. Solomon, Jr. the boy who wounded several of his classmates at a suburban Atlanta school, was on Ritalin. Treated for depression, he was possibly also on one of the SSRIs, such as Prozac or Zoloft.
And Phil Hartman’s brother, the executor of the dead actor’s estate, has just filed a suit against Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft. Brynn Hartman who murdered her husband a year ago, was being treated for depression by Los Angeles psychiatrist Arthur Sorosky with Zoloft.
Some sources of information (may no longer be operating in 2012):
Dr. Joseph Tarantolo, psychiatrist, president of the Washington chapter of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. Phone: 301-652-5580
The Merrow Report can be ordered by phone at 212-941-8060.
The ICSPP News publishes the following warning in bold letters: “Do Not Try to Abruptly Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs. When trying to withdraw from many psychiatric drugs, patients can develop serious and even life-threatening emotional and physical reactions… Therefore, withdrawal from psychiatric drugs should be done under clinical supervision…”
ADHD Action Group: 212-769-2457
JON RAPPOPORT has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years. He has written articles on politics, medicine, and health for Spin, Stern, Village Voice, In These Times, and a number of other newspapers and magazines in the United States and Europe. In 1982, the LA Weekly placed his name in nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of the military takeover at the University of El Salvador. Mr. Rappoport is the author of Oklahoma City Bombing, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and AIDS INC., a widely praised critique of the original research behind HIV.
Many thanks to Dr. Peter Breggin. Much information in this article was obtained through his landmark book, Toxic Psychiatry.