What Every Parent Needs to Know About Attention Deficit Disorder

by Dr. Fred. Baughman, Jr.
Adult & Child Neurologist

In a recent column, Ann Landers said, “Parents need new skills to deal with children with ADD.” What “skills,” Ann?

ADD (a.k.a. ADHD, attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity) has become the most common “disease” of childhood and is spreading like wildfire. Just as in the pre-Salk vaccines of polio, there is reason to fear for the children. Affecting anywhere from 6 to 33 percent of children in grade school, ADD also strikes adolescents; persists into adult life; can cause school failure, dropping out, aggression, violence, criminality and substance abuse; needs treatment with addictive medications; and is a certifiable disability.

Characterized by inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, ADD is a “brain disease” due to a “chemical imbalance of the brain,” diagnosed by a teacher checking off “any eight of 14 behaviors” listed, and requiring no physician, laboratory, X-ray, or brain-scan confirmation -because there is no confirmation! Skepticism and science are what parents need to deal with ADD, not skill.

In numbers unmatched in any part of the world, U.S. school children are diagnosed and drugged in a quid pro quo association between education and for-profit psychiatry and psychology. By labeling students “brain-diseased,” the schools have an excuse for the rampant illiteracy and unpreparedness, cause enough for the mounting unhappiness and failure of the children, while psychiatry/psychology gains lifetime patients.

Parents, wake up! Do you really believe that your child, seemingly normal until age 8 (the average age at diagnosis), has a “brain disease” due to “chemical imbalance of the brain” as diagnosed by the teacher? I don’t think so.

As a child neurologist for 35 years, I have authored original descriptions of real diseases characterized by objective abnormalities. Witnessing the burgeoning numbers of school children said to have ADD and made to take brain-altering drugs, I have found I can validate none of it.

In three years of trying, I have been unable to extract from Ciba-Geigy, manufacturers of Ritalin, references to any articles proving that ADD is a real disease. On Sept. 23, 1993, I testified at the National Institutes of Health that ADD, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder-the so-called disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) -are not proven diseases, organic or biologic, and therefore, that it would be unethical and fatally flawed scientifically to proceed with research into biological interventions, such as drugs.

On November 17, 1994, I wrote David Kessler, M. D., Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and asked how they could allow Ciba-Geigy to portray ADD in the Ritalin insert as a “syndrome,” a term meaning the same thing as “disease.”

The FDA response: “We acknowledge…that as yet no distinct pathophysiology for the disorder has been delineated.” This affirmed my conclusion – that ADD is not a proven disease. To the extent that it allows Ciba-Geigy to perpetuate the illusion of a disease by calling it a real “disease” — the FDA is in collusion with the manufacturer that it is supposed to monitor and regulate.

To understand how ADD , not a disease at all, became the most common “disease” of childhood, and why its numbers double every four to seven years, and why the Drug Enforcement Agency quota for Ritalin has risen from 1700 kilograms in 1990 to 8000 kilograms in 1995, one has to understand the following:

The power of advertising; the ties of psychiatry to the drug industry; “provider-induced need”; (what Brumback calls the “Chinese cookbook” approach to diagnosing), whereby psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, with 292 diagnoses as of 1992, was considering 94 new ones; and the dire straits in which psychiatry finds itself, being forced more rapidly than any other medical specialty to down size and reconfigure along the lines of rapidly advancing “managed care” (HMO’s). Credible estimates have it that in mental health, fully under managed care, one-half of the nation’s 38,000 psychiatrists may be unnecessary.
If your child is not reading at his or her grade level, is frustrated, increasingly unhappy, inattentive or even disruptive, there is no “diagnosis” or “pill.” To eradicate these diseases, we must get the medical/psychiatric/psychological model out of the classroom and commit, once again, to the proposition that the children can and must read at an age/grade appropriate level and that they are educable, and must be educated.

Parents, if an ADD diagnosis is applied to your child, assert that it is not a “disease,” and that representing it as such is false, a breach of “informed consent” and “malpractice.”