Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Senator: "Kids are too medicated"


    The Gainesville Times
    Schaefer: Kids are too medicated
    GOP state senator makes subject an issue in her bid for re-election
    Are America's children over-medicated with "psychotropic" drugs?

    That's the view of state Sen. Nancy Schaefer, R-Turnerville, who has made it an issue in her re-election campaign.

    Schaefer is running to keep her seat in the 50th District, which covers all or part of six mountain counties in Georgia's northeast corner. She has been criticized by some people, including her opponent, Democrat Carol Jackson, for attending an event that has ties to the Church of Scientology.

    On Aug. 28, Schaefer cut the ribbon for the opening of an exhibit in Atlanta called "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death." She insisted she has no affiliation with Scientology, explaining that the exhibit focused on an issue that she has been involved with for several years.

    In the 2006 General Assembly, Schaefer introduced Senate Bill 430, which would have made it illegal to screen schoolchildren for mental health problems without their parents' consent.

    That bill failed to gain traction. But Schaefer is not giving up. In a recent newspaper ad, she stated that 10 million American children "are placed on mind-altering drugs to correct normal behavior misdiagnosed as a mental health disease."

    In a position paper posted on her Web site, Schaefer says she fears Georgia will adopt a program to diagnose mental disorders in children and get them into drug treatment against their parents' will. She says there is a national initiative in this direction, aimed at reaping profits for "the big pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric experts."

    "I've had many parents call me, saying that their children were being overmedicated," she said Tuesday. "They thought the professionals were suggesting what was best for their child, but later regretted their decision."

    Schaefer said she's trying to raise awareness of the issue and educate parents about what's going on.

    "If children are fidgety, they may need discipline or physical activity. But we don't need to drug them into submission," she said. "To me, this is an invasion of family life."

    Millions of American children take prescription stimulants such as Ritalin or antidepressants such as Prozac. But in Georgia, there is no evidence that schools have played a role in getting them medicated.

    "There's no national conspiracy to force people into treatment. That's kind of a crazy notion," said Dr. Shannon Croft, assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University and medical director of child psychiatry at Grady Memorial Hospital.

    "In Georgia, a doctor cannot write any prescription for a child without the consent of a parent or legal guardian."

    And school officials are careful to not even suggest the use of a drug.

    "We do not make recommendations about taking medication," said Paula Rufus, coordinator of student services for Hall County Schools. "If a student is having a behavior problem, we may ask the parent if the child has had a medical exam recently. But we are not medical professionals. We don't make diagnoses."

    Mamie Coker, director of health services for Hall County Schools, said the system doesn't keep track of how many students are on Ritalin or similar drugs.

    "Now that there are controlled-release versions of these medications, many students may be taking their dose at home so it doesn't have to be administered by the school nurse," she said.

    But from her own observations, Coker said she hasn't noticed an increase in students taking psychiatric drugs.

    "In fact, I think the pendulum may be swinging the other way," she said. "I've seen some parents trying other methods, such as herbal remedies."

    Coker said Hall schools do not have a formal program for screening students for mental or behavioral problems. But on an individual basis, school officials do help identify kids who might need assistance.

    "Often, the teacher observes that the child is having difficulty in the classroom and mentions this to the parents," she said. "It's up to them whether they want to take the child to a doctor."

    Georgia law requires schools to form a "student support team" for any child who seems to be having difficulty. The teacher, principal, counselor and others confer to try to determine the nature of the problem.

    Anita Frederick, a school psychologist based at Mount Vernon Elementary, said sometimes what looks like a behavioral issue may turn out to have a different cause.

    "We meet with parents and have them fill out a checklist," she said. "Do the behaviors happen only at school and not at home? If so, the problem could be a deficit in learning or cognitive ability. The child may feel overwhelmed in the classroom and is acting out as a result of that."

    Frederick said it may be difficult for an untrained person to distinguish between normal childhood energy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    "A big question that I usually ask teachers is, 'Is it interfering with their learning, or the learning of others?'" she said. "I see so many cases where (ADHD) medication makes a world of difference for the child. They can focus and achieve academic success for the first time."

    But are some children put in Ritalin or other drugs unnecessarily? Yes, said Croft.

    "It is true that some children are diagnosed and treated for illnesses that they do not have," he said. "There are some people, including doctors, who see drugs as a quick fix. But a doctor should never push a medicine on a patient. The risks and benefits must be weighed."

    Croft said children are more likely to be misdiagnosed in small towns where there are few psychiatrists. In those circumstances, the prescription for a drug such as Ritalin is usually written by a pediatrician or family doctor, who may not have time to fully evaluate the child.

    "A typical evaluation for ADHD by a child psychiatrist involves three or four visits and a detailed consultation with the school and parents," he said.

    "Aside from simple ADHD, most childhood emotional and behavioral problems should be treated with therapy first. An ADHD drug can treat hyperactivity and inattention. But no medicine can create 'good' behavior. That's what therapy is for."

    A study published last week in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concluded that for preschoolers with severe ADHD, the benefits of Ritalin outweigh the risks. But Croft said he's skeptical of those results.

    "There's still controversy over how you can accurately diagnose ADHD in preschoolers, whose attention span is already short," he said. "If your child is younger than 5 and you are told he needs stimulants, get a second opinion."

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Millions of Americans affected by New Disorder

Millions of Americans affected by Television Deficiency Disorder (TDD)
October 20, 2006
by Mike Adams

More than thirty-five million Americans may currently be suffering from a newly-discovered disorder that affects brain chemistry, behavior and health: Television Deficiency Disorder, or TDD for short. Based on work by Dr. Anne Tennah, a psychiatrist who specializes in brain chemistry disorders, this little-known disorder is now thought to be more widespread than ADHD and Bi-Polar combined.

Television Deficiency Disorder is a serious condition brought on by a lack of television programming. Victims display excessive intelligence quotients (I.Q.s), an exaggerated sense of self esteem, and "suspiciously high" levels of physical activity that keep them strangely thin. "These victims stray from societal norms," explained Dr. Tennah. "With their heightened cognitive function but lack of exposure to sitcoms, reality shows and shaped news programs, they are unable to interact with normal people in society."

Dr. Anne Tennah suggests that victims of TDD be prescribed additional television programming. "Parents especially need to make sure their children receive at least two to three hours of television programming per day," she said. "Otherwise, they may grow up imbalanced and require medication."

The medications used to treat Television Deficiency Disorder have, coincidentally, just been approved by the Fraud and Drug Administration. Manufactured by ConPhuzer, a Big Pharma giant, the drugs are stimulant amphetamines similar to those prescribed for ADHD, but with much higher potency. "These drugs put children in a quiet, receptive state where they can sit in front of the television for hours and soak up all the programming they need," explained Dr. Tennah. "They're miracle drugs. I intend on prescribing them to all my patients."

Share prices for ConPhuzer rose $2.37 on the news of the drug approval by the FDA, and then leaped another $12.62 on the announcement that Television Deficiency Disorder had been discovered. This thrilled major ConPhuzer shareholders such as the ghost of Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron who is now apparently immune to all insider trading crimes because he is no longer living.

Most of the people who need treatment for Television Deficiency Disorder are not receiving it, say members of non-profit patient advocacy groups. They offer free screenings to the public in order to help people determine if they, too, may suffer from undiagnosed Television Deficiency Disorder. Screenings are held with very large screens to maximize the disorder detection accuracy.

Doctors also now believe that Television Deficiency Disorder is genetic. "If your parents didn't watch much television, chances are that you won't either," explained Dr. Tennah. "That puts you at high risk for TDD disorder, and treatment is recommended to prevent the disorder in all high-risk patients."

Television and cable news channels are also urging the public to be tested. "This rising problem of Television Deficiency Disorder may explain our plummeting ratings," said Freeh Quincy, the director of programming for MSNBCBS. "We are doing our part to help eradicate this disease by taking millions of dollars from drug companies and running their advertisements alongside news reports that highlight the disorder."

Even as tens of millions of Americans may now be suffering from Television Deficiency Disorder, third world countries are hit even harder. "Many countries don't even have televisions," warned Dr. Anne Tennah, "And as a result, they are in the midst of widespread TDD epidemics that are worse than AIDS." International aid is being organized to help bring such countries more television programming, along with western junk food restaurants, drug companies and soda giants to support the advertising requirements of local television shows. "The more television we can bring these people, the better off they will be," Dr. Tennah said. "We must spread American culture throughout the world in order to save everyone."

Back in the United States, parents, schoolteachers and librarians are being urged to help boost the television time of children. They are also warned that reading, exercising, family interaction and play time all interfere with quality television programming, so such activities should be limited, psychiatrists say.

Finally, psychiatrists are also urging all parents to realize that this report is a satire piece, meaning that it is entirely fictitious. It does serve, however, as a metaphor for the incessant disease mongering and "screening & treatment" scams being operated today by drug companies, disease non-profit groups and the psychiatric community. So-called disorders ranging from ADHD to "social anxiety disorder" are invented, promoted and sold to the public in order to convince people they need expense pharmaceuticals to lead healthy lives. The effort has nothing to do with health, but everything to do with generating profits for Big Pharma.

Remember: The best way to get people to buy more drugs is to first convince them they have a disease. And the easiest way to do that? Make up a disease based on behavior, not physiology, then buy off all the industry experts to help publicize your newly-invented disease. Throw a few million dollars at the media, sneak a fraudulent study into the medical journals, threaten to blackball researchers who try to tell the truth, and -- voila! -- you've just invented a billion-dollar industry selling drugs to people who don't need them.

This is how medicine operates today, where virtually every popular health condition from breast cancer to high cholesterol is over-diagnosed, over-treated and over-marketed to a gullible public who are far too easily manipulated by television programming.

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GIVING Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies, new research has found.

Child drugs alarm

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia) - Oct. 22, 2006

GIVING Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies, new research has found.

Children taking pyschostimulant drugs, including Ritalin, may be more susceptible to amphetamine addiction later in life, the research shows.

The study by Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute reveals drugs can wire the brain for addiction.

Alcohol and drug addiction researcher Dr Andrew Lawrence said the study found that amphetamines given to adolescent rats put them at greater risk of amphetamine addiction in adulthood.

It also found that adult rats became possibly more susceptible to heart attack as a result of the reuse of amphetamines.

It has been reported that children as young as five suffered heart attacks and strokes after taking Ritalin -- an amphetamine-like prescription stimulant.

The drug -- taken by 50,000 Australian children -- is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It has a similar chemical structure to cocaine.

``We found that when a teenage rat is given amphetamines, and then after abstinence has the drug again as an adult, they have a more sensitised reaction -- opening the door for addiction,'' Dr Lawrence said.

As well as activating the brain's reward system, which is involved in addiction, amphetamines affect brain regions that control heartbeat, blood pressure and temperature.

``By effecting basic brain functions, amphetamines may expose experimenting teenagers to increased risk of heart attack if they re-use the drug later in life,'' Dr Lawrence said.

Alcohol and amphetamine activate and sensitize the brains reward system, which is involved in addiction.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Child Drugging


Fort Wayne Daily News
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Our View

Yet another study warns of risks of behavior drugs

The first long-term government study on Ritalin and its effect on preschoolers shows that preschoolers are more likely than older children to develop side effects.

The soaring number of preschoolers with severe behaviors being given psychiatric drugs prompted the research.

The study in the November edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said the benefits of low-dose treatment for preschoolers outweigh the risks.

However, about 40 percent of the preschoolers developed side effects such as irritability, weight loss, insomnia and slowed growth.

We believe there needs to be more research to see if there are links between pollutants, diet and troubled home environments and the surge in childhood depression and behavior problems.

Our children deserve to grow up - if at all possible - without the possible side-effects of short-term and long-term psychiatric drug use. A "drugged up" generation is more likely to end up in a lifelong cycle of prescription drug taking.

We need more information about why attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be spiraling and how best to meet children's physical and emotional needs.

Letters to the editor:

Stop TeenScreen's Unscientific and Experimental "Mental Health Screening" of American School Children  "HYPERLINK""

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The ADHD dilemma for parents

The ADHD dilemma for parents
By Cordelia Rayner
All Out Productions

With a recent survey suggesting almost 50% of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been excluded at some point, parents face difficult choices.

Up to one in 20 children have ADHD, which affects concentration and can cause them to be disruptive.

Many are being put on medication but unions warn that some schools cannot meet their medical needs.

And American scientists have raised concerns about the widespread use of ADHD medications.

A recent survey by the National Attention Deficit Disorder information and support service found the exclusion rate for children with ADHD was 10 times higher than that of those without.

Some parents have told the BBC they were told to give their children medication or keep them at home, and that they often felt they were being denied a proper education.

The National Association of Head Teachers spokesperson, Jan Myles, said: "It's the system that fails the child but all too often the blame is laid at the door of the school.

"A lot of heads I'm talking to on a daily basis are exhausted with trying to implement different strategies that are not working."

One mother, Linda Sheppard, is taking her local authority to the European Court of Human Rights to gain her son the educational support she claims he needs.

Ms Sheppard removed her son from his school because she says they were unable to offer him adequate support in the classroom.

Continual exclusions from school trips and other activities caused his well-being to plummet and by the time he was seven he threatened suicide, she says.

For 18 months Ms Sheppard struggled to find a school she felt could cope with her son's education needs.

"It's ridiculous - the only way parents can get their children an education is through the courtroom," says Ms Sheppard, who claims that many exclusions are not recorded in official statistics and are classified as authorised absences by schools.

Other parents say they are coming under pressure to have their children on prescription drugs.

The BBC's Five Live Report spoke to one parent who said they were asked by their school to either put their child on medication or they would be excluded.

In the past 10 years the prescription rates for ADHD medications, which are based on the chemical methylphenidate, have risen sharply.

In 1994 there were just 4,000 prescriptions for methylphenidate, 10 years later that figure had gone up to 359,000 - a 90-fold increase.

However, the news comes at a time when leading American doctors have called for greater warnings on the labels of the ADHD medications.

The risks outlined by Dr Steven Nissen include tics, strokes, and in severe cases, sudden death.

"These drugs are not candy," says Dr Nissen, President of the American College of Cardiologists who was one of the key experts that moved to increase the warnings. "These are powerful medications that have serious risks."

In Britain though the drug advisory board, the MRHA, is not yet planning to release any new guidelines.

Manufacturers said the risks identified were small and only applied to people with pre-existing heart conditions.

One drugs company, Novartis, said it had "conducted a review of our global safety database in early 2005 which did not show any increased events of sudden deaths or strokes among methylphenidate users compared to the general population".

Five Live Report can be heard on Sunday 22 October at 1100 BST and 1930BST and will also be available at the Five Live Report website.



GIVING Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies, new research has found.

Child drugs alarm

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia) - Oct. 22, 2006

GIVING Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies, new research has found.

Children taking pyschostimulant drugs, including Ritalin, may be more susceptible to amphetamine addiction later in life, the research shows.

The study by Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute reveals drugs can wire the brain for addiction.

Alcohol and drug addiction researcher Dr Andrew Lawrence said the study found that amphetamines given to adolescent rats put them at greater risk of amphetamine addiction in adulthood.

It also found that adult rats became possibly more susceptible to heart attack as a result of the reuse of amphetamines.

It has been reported that children as young as five suffered heart attacks and strokes after taking Ritalin -- an amphetamine-like prescription stimulant.

The drug -- taken by 50,000 Australian children -- is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It has a similar chemical structure to cocaine.

``We found that when a teenage rat is given amphetamines, and then after abstinence has the drug again as an adult, they have a more sensitised reaction -- opening the door for addiction,'' Dr Lawrence said.

As well as activating the brain's reward system, which is involved in addiction, amphetamines affect brain regions that control heartbeat, blood pressure and temperature.

``By effecting basic brain functions, amphetamines may expose experimenting teenagers to increased risk of heart attack if they re-use the drug later in life,'' Dr Lawrence said.

Alcohol and amphetamine activate and sensitize the brains reward system, which is involved in addiction.


Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat

Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat

Research with British and US offenders suggests nutritional deficiencies may play a key role in aggressive bevaviour

Felicity Lawrence
Tuesday October 17, 2006


That Dwight Demar is able to sit in front of us, sober, calm, and employed, is "a miracle", he declares in the cadences of a prayer-meeting sinner. He has been rocking his 6ft 2in bulk to and fro while delivering a confessional account of his past into the middle distance. He wants us to know what has saved him after 20 years on the streets: "My dome is working. They gave me some kind of pill and I changed. Me, myself and I, I changed."

Demar has been in and out of prison so many times he has lost count of his convictions. "Being drunk, being disorderly, trespass, assault and battery; you name it, I did it. How many times I been in jail? I don't know, I was locked up so much it was my second home."

Demar has been taking part in a clinical trial at the US government's National Institutes for Health, near Washington. The study is investigating the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on the brain, and the pills that have effected Demar's "miracle" are doses of fish oil.

The results emerging from this study are at the cutting edge of the debate on crime and punishment. In Britain we lock up more people than ever before. Nearly 80,000 people are now in our prisons, which reached their capacity this week.

But the new research calls into question the very basis of criminal justice and the notion of culpability. It suggests that individuals may not always be responsible for their aggression. Taken together with a study in a high-security prison for young offenders in the UK, it shows that violent behaviour may be attributable at least in part to nutritional deficiencies.

The UK prison trial at Aylesbury jail showed that when young men there were fed multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences they committed in the prison fell by 37%. Although no one is suggesting that poor diet alone can account for complex social problems, the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham says that he is now "absolutely convinced that there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour, both that bad diet causes bad behaviour and that good diet prevents it."

The Dutch government is currently conducting a large trial to see if nutritional supplements have the same effect on its prison population. And this week, new claims were made that fish oil had improved behaviour and reduced aggression among children with some of the most severe behavioural difficulties in the UK.


For the clinician in charge of the US study, Joseph Hibbeln, the results of his trial are not a miracle, but simply what you might predict if you understand the biochemistry of the brain and the biophysics of the brain cell membrane. His hypothesis is that modern industrialised diets may be changing the very architecture and functioning of the brain.

We are suffering, he believes, from widespread diseases of deficiency. Just as vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, deficiency in the essential fats the brain needs and the nutrients needed to metabolise those fats is causing of a host of mental problems from depression to aggression. Not all experts agree, but if he is right, the consequences are as serious as they could be. The pandemic of violence in western societies may be related to what we eat or fail to eat. Junk food may not only be making us sick, but mad and bad too.

In Demar's case the aggression has blighted many lives. He has attacked his wife. "Once she put my TV out the door, I snapped off and smacked her." His last spell in prison was for a particularly violent assault. "I tried to kill a person. Then I knew something need be done because I was half a hundred and I was either going to kill somebody or get killed."

Demar's brain has blanked out much of that last attack. He can remember that a man propositioned him for sex, but the details of his own response are hazy.

When he came out of jail after that, he bought a can of beer and seemed headed for more of the same until a case worker who had seen adverts for Hibbeln's trial persuaded him to take part.

The researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of NIH, had placed adverts for aggressive alcoholics in the Washington Post in 2001. Some 80 volunteers came forward and have since been enrolled in the double blind study. They have ranged from homeless people to a teacher to a former secret service agent. Following a period of three weeks' detoxification on a locked ward, half were randomly assigned to 2 grams per day of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for three months, and half to placebos of fish-flavoured corn oil.

An earlier pilot study on 30 patients with violent records found that those given omega-3 supplements had their anger reduced by one-third, measured by standard scales of hostility and irritability, regardless of whether they were relapsing and drinking again. The bigger trial is nearly complete now and Dell Wright, the nurse administering the pills, has seen startling changes in those on the fish oil rather than the placebo. "When Demar came in there was always an undercurrent of aggression in his behaviour. Once he was on the supplements he took on the ability not to be impulsive. He kept saying, 'This is not like me'."

Demar has been out of trouble and sober for a year now. He has a girlfriend, his own door key, and was made employee of the month at his company recently. Others on the trial also have long histories of violence but with omega-3 fatty acids have been able for the first time to control their anger and aggression. J, for example, arrived drinking a gallon of rum a day and had 28 scars on his hand from punching other people. Now he is calm and his cravings have gone. W was a 19st barrel of a man with convictions for assault and battery. He improved dramatically on the fish oil and later told doctors that for the first time since the age of five he had managed to go three months without punching anyone in the head.

Threat to society

Hibbeln is a psychiatrist and physician, but as an employee of the US government at the NIH he wears the uniform of a commander, with his decorations for service pinned to his chest. As we queued to get past the post-9/11 security checks at the NIH federal base, he explained something of his view of the new threat to society.

Over the last century most western countries have undergone a dramatic shift in the composition of their diets in which the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to the brain have been flooded out by competing omega-6 fatty acids, mainly from industrial oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower. In the US, for example, soya oil accounted for only 0.02% of all calories available in 1909, but by 2000 it accounted for 20%. Americans have gone from eating a fraction of an ounce of soya oil a year to downing 25lbs (11.3kg) per person per year in that period. In the UK, omega-6 fats from oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower accounted for 1% of energy supply in the early 1960s, but by 2000 they were nearly 5%. These omega-6 fatty acids come mainly from industrial frying for takeaways, ready meals and snack foods such as crisps, chips, biscuits, ice-creams and from margarine. Alcohol, meanwhile, depletes omega-3s from the brain.

To test the hypothesis, Hibbeln and his colleagues have mapped the growth in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils in 38 countries since the 1960s against the rise in murder rates over the same period. In all cases there is an unnerving match. As omega-6 goes up, so do homicides in a linear progression. Industrial societies where omega-3 consumption has remained high and omega-6 low because people eat fish, such as Japan, have low rates of murder and depression.

Of course, all these graphs prove is that there is a striking correlation between violence and omega 6-fatty acids in the diet. They don't prove that high omega-6 and low omega-3 fat consumption actually causes violence. Moreover, many other things have changed in the last century and been blamed for rising violence - exposure to violence in the media, the breakdown of the family unit and increased consumption of sugar, to take a few examples. But some of the trends you might expect to be linked to increased violence - such as availability of firearms and alcohol, or urbanisation - do not in fact reliably predict a rise in murder across countries, according to Hibbeln.

There has been a backlash recently against the hype surrounding omega-3 in the UK from scientists arguing that the evidence remains sketchy. Part of the backlash stems from the eagerness of some supplement companies to suggest that fish oils work might wonders even on children who have no behavioural problems.

Alan Johnson, the education secretary, appeared to be jumping on the bandwagon recently when he floated the idea of giving fish oils to all school children. The idea was quickly knocked down when the food standards agency published a review of the evidence on the effect of nutrition on learning among schoolchildren and concluded there was not enough to conclude much, partly because very few scientific trials have been done.

Professor John Stein, of the department of physiology at Oxford University, where much of the UK research on omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies has been based, agrees: "There is only slender evidence that children with no particular problem would benefit from fish oil. And I would always say [for the general population] it's better to get omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish, which carries all the vitamins and minerals needed to metabolise them."

However, he believes that the evidence from the UK prison study and from Hibbeln's research in the US on the link between nutritional deficiency and crime is " strong", although the mechanisms involved are still not fully understood.

Hibbeln, Stein and others have been investigating what the mechanisms of a causal relationship between diet and aggression might be. This is where the biochemistry and biophysics comes in.

Essential fatty acids are called essential because humans cannot make them but must obtain them from the diet. The brain is a fatty organ - it's 60% fat by dry weight, and the essential fatty acids are what make part of its structure, making up 20% of the nerve cells' membranes. The synapses, or junctions where nerve cells connect with other nerve cells, contain even higher concentrations of essential fatty acids - being made of about 60% of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Communication between the nerve cells depends on neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, docking with receptors in the nerve cell membrane.

Omega-3 DHA is very long and highly flexible. When it is incorporated into the nerve cell membrane it helps make the membrane itself elastic and fluid so that signals pass through it efficiently. But if the wrong fatty acids are incorporated into the membrane, the neurotransmitters can't dock properly. We know from many other studies what happens when the neurotransmitter systems don't work efficiently. Low serotonin levels are known to predict an increased risk of suicide, depression and violent and impulsive behaviour. And dopamine is what controls the reward processes in the brain.

Laboratory tests at NIH have shown that the composition of tissue and in particular of the nerve cell membrane of people in the US is different from that of the Japanese, who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Americans have cell membranes higher in the less flexible omega-6 fatty acids, which appear to have displaced the elastic omega-3 fatty acids found in Japanese nerve cells.

Hibbeln's theory is that because the omega-6 fatty acids compete with the omega-3 fatty acids for the same metabolic pathways, when omega-6 dominates in the diet, we can't convert the omega-3s to DHA and EPA, the longer chain versions we need for the brain. What seems to happen then is that the brain picks up a more rigid omega-6 fatty acid DPA instead of DHA to build the cell membranes - and they don't function so well.

Other experts blame the trans fats produced by partial hydrogenation of industrial oils for processed foods. Trans fats have been shown to interfere with the synthesis of essentials fats in foetuses and infants. Minerals such as zinc and the B vitamins are needed to metabolise essential fats, so deficiencies in these may be playing an important part too.

There is also evidence that deficiencies in DHA/EPA at times when the brain is developing rapidly - in the womb, in the first 5 years of life and at puberty - can affect its architecture permanently. Animal studies have shown that those deprived of omega-3 fatty acids over two generations have offspring who cannot release dopamine and serotonin so effectively.

"The extension of all this is that if children are left with low dopamine as a result of early deficits in their own or their mother's diets, they cannot experience reward in the same way and they cannot learn from reward and punishment. If their serotonin levels are low, they cannot inhibit their impulses or regulate their emotional responses," Hibbeln points out.

Mental health

Here too you have one possible factor in cycles of deprivation (again, no one is suggesting diet is the only factor) and why criminal behaviour is apparently higher among lower socio-economic groups where nutrition is likely to be poorer.

These effects of the industrialisation of the diet on the brain were also predicted in the 1970s by a leading fats expert in the UK, Professor Michael Crawford, now at London's Metropolitan University. He established that DHA was structural to the brain and foresaw that deficiencies would lead to a surge in mental health and behavioural problems - a prediction borne out by the UK's mental health figures.

It was two decades later before the first study of the effect of diet on behaviour took place in a UK prison. Bernard Gesch, now a senior researcher at Stein's Oxford laboratory, first became involved with nutrition and its relationship to crime as a director of the charity Natural Justice in northwest England. He was supervising persistent offenders in the community and was struck by their diets. He later set out to test the idea that poor diet might cause antisocial behaviour and crime in the maximum security Aylesbury prison.

His study, a placebo-controlled double blind randomised trial, took 231 volunteer prisoners and assigned half to a regime of multivitamin, mineral and essential fatty acid supplements and half to placebos. The supplement aimed to bring the prisoners' intakes of nutrients up to the level recommended by government. It was not specifically a fatty acid trial, and Gesch points out that nutrition is not pharmacology but involves complex interactions of many nutrients.

Prison trial

Aylesbury was at the time a prison for young male offenders, aged 17 to 21, convicted of the most serious crimes. Trevor Hussey was then deputy governor and remembers it being a tough environment. "It was a turbulent young population. They had problems with their anger. They were all crammed into a small place and even though it was well run you got a higher than normal number of assaults on staff and other prisoners."

Although the governor was keen on looking at the relationship between diet and crime, Hussey remembers being sceptical himself at the beginning of the study. The catering manager was good, and even though prisoners on the whole preferred white bread, meat and confectionery to their fruit and veg, the staff tried to encourage prisoners to eat healthily, so he didn't expect to see much of a result.

But quite quickly staff noticed a significant drop in the number of reported incidents of bad behaviour. "We'd just introduced a policy of 'earned privileges' so we thought it must be that rather than a few vitamins, but we used to joke 'maybe it's Bernard's pills'."

But when the trial finished it became clear that the drop in incidents of bad behaviour applied only to those on the supplements and not to those on the placebo.

The results, published in 2002, showed that those receiving the extra nutrients committed 37% fewer serious offences involving violence, and 26% fewer offences overall. Those on the placebos showed no change in their behaviour. Once the trial had finished the number of offences went up by the same amount. The office the researchers had used to administer nutrients was restored to a restraint room after they had left.

"The supplements improved the functioning of those prisoners. It was clearly something significant that can't be explained away. I was disappointed the results were not latched on to. We put a lot of effort into improving prisoners' chances of not coming back in, and you measure success in small doses."

Gesch believes we should be rethinking the whole notion of culpability. The overall rate of violent crime in the UK has risen since the 1950s, with huge rises since the 1970s. "Such large changes are hard to explain in terms of genetics or simply changes of reporting or recording crime. One plausible candidate to explain some of the rapid rise in crime could be changes in the brain's environment. What would the future have held for those 231 young men if they had grown up with better nourishment?" Gesch says.

He said he was currently unable to comment on any plans for future research in prisons, but studies with young offenders in the community are being planned.

For Hibbeln, the changes in our diet in the past century are "a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to the societal burden of aggression, depression and cardiovascular death". To ask whether we have enough evidence to change diets is to put the question the wrong way round. Whoever said it was safe to change them so radically in the first place?

Young offender's diet

One young offender had been sentenced by the British courts on 13 occasions for stealing trucks in the early hours of the morning.

Bernard Gesch recorded the boy's daily diet as follows:

Breakfast: nothing (asleep)

Mid morning: nothing (asleep)

Lunchtime: 4 or 5 cups of coffee with milk and 2½ heaped teaspoons of sugar

Mid afternoon: 3 or 4 cups of coffee with milk and 2½ heaped sugars

Tea: chips, egg, ketchup, 2 slices of white bread, 5 cups of tea or coffee with milk and sugar

Evening: 5 cups of tea or coffee with milk and sugar, 20 cigarettes, £2 worth of sweets, cakes and if money available 3 or 4 pints of beer.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Drug ads sell a problem, not a solution

from the August 21, 2006 edition -

Drug ads sell a problem, not a solution

By Jonathan Rowe

It is an old saying in the advertising trade that you sell the problem, not the solution. That helps explain why the media today are awash with images of disease. Erectile dysfunction, depression, stress, attention deficit disorder, on and on - you can't escape them and the sense of looming peril that they conjure up.

Politicians sell terror and fear; pharmaceutical companies sell disease. Every state and stage of existence has become a pathology in need of pharmaceutical "intervention," and life itself is a petri dish of biochemical deficiency and need. Shyness is now "social anxiety disorder." A twitchy tendency has become "restless leg syndrome." Three decades ago the head of Merck dreamed aloud of the day when the definition of disease would be so broad that his company could "sell to everyone," like chewing gum.

That day is rapidly approaching, if it's not already here. "We're increasingly turning normal people into patients," said Dr. Lisa M. Schwartz of the Dartmouth Medical School. "The ordinary experiences of life become a diagnosis, which makes healthy people feel like they're sick."

In one sense, the ads have been successful. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that every dollar drug companies spend on ads brings more than four dollars in additional sales. But for most others, the result has been soaring medical insurance costs, toxic side effects, and new tensions between doctors and patients, who increasingly badger doctors for the drugs they've seen on TV.

One study found that 30 percent of Americans have made these demands. A Minnesota doctor complained recently that patients now push him for sleep medications "when maybe they just need to go to bed on a more regular basis."

But perhaps the worst part is that prescription drug ads have immersed us all in a pervasive drug culture that seems to have no boundaries. We are being reduced to helpless "consumers" who have no capacity to deal with challenges other than by taking a pill. Last month Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota, called for a moratorium on prescription drug ads. It's about time.

For most of the past half century, there were tight restrictions on the general advertising of prescription drugs. These require doctors' guidance for a reason; so why should Madison Avenue get involved? But under heavy pressure from the drug and advertising industries, the government backed down in the late 1990s, and that started the tsunami.

Spending on drug ads for the general public more than tripled between 1996 and 2001. It is now some $4 billion a year, which is more than twice what McDonald's spends on ads. In 1994, the typical American had seven prescriptions a year, which is no small number. By 2004, that was up to 12 a year. Homebuilders are touting medicine cabinets that are "triple-wide."

The industry says this is all about "educating" the consumer. But an ad executive was more candid when he said - boasted, really - that the goal is to "drive patients to their doctors." Reuters Business Insight, a publication for investors, explained that the future of the industry depends on its ability to "create new disease markets." "The coming years," it said, "will bear greater witness to the corporate-sponsored creation of disease."

The Kaiser study found that drug ads increase sales for entire categories of drugs, not just the one in question. The ads really are selling the disease more than a cure.

Advertising is just one way the industry has sought to accomplish this goal. It also funds patient advocacy groups such as Children With Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD), and doctors who push for expanded definitions of disease, among a host of other things. (When the definition of ADD expanded in the 1980s, the number of kids tagged with this problem increased by 50 percent.)

But advertising is the most pervasive and aggressive way of selling sickness. It also is the hardest to justify. Medicine is supposed to be about science, not huckstering; about healing people, not persuading more of them that they are sick. There are far better ways to inform the public about health issues than to spend billions of dollars a year pushing pills.

This is why more than 200 medical school professors recently called for an end to prescription drug ads, and why close to 40 health and seniors groups have joined them. Even the American Medical Association, many members of which have close ties to the pharmaceutical industry, has urged restrictions. Washington should listen to these doctors. As Governor Pawlenty put it, we need to put "the decisionmaking back where it should be - on an informed basis between the patient and the doctor."

Jonathan Rowe is issues director at Commercial Alert and a fellow at the Tomales Bay Institute. He is a former Monitor staff writer.

Education Expert Offers Insight into the Fraud of TeenScreen

Education Expert Offers Insight into the Fraud of TeenScreen

New CCHR Radio Show with Educator and Activist, Joe Enge

JC McKinley, filling in for Bruce Wiseman on the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights radio show, "Take America Back," interviews Joe Enge, educator, author and parents' rights activist. Joe Enge heads an organization called "Ed Watch Nevada," which is a watchdog in the field of education and which advocates parental rights and informed consent regarding their children's education.  As a former Fulbright highschool teacher, (a prestigious program for highly qualified teachers to teach abroad,) Mr. Enge was sent to Eastern Europe to help ex-Communist countries.  He explains the irony in returning home to the U.S. to see increasing expansion of the federal government into private affairs, exemplified by the invasive and fradulent TeenScreen program—part of the current push for universal mental health screening in public schools.

The interview discusses the lack of science behind the program, which is created by psychiatrists and intended to reap profits for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the dangerous consequences of such a program.  JC and Mr. Enge explain how "TeenScreen" involves schoolchildren filling out questionnaires, consisting of questions like, "Have you ever doubted yourself?," the answers to which will be used to give the children damaging labels that could stick with them for the rest of their lives. They explain that as a result of these labels, children will likely be prescribed dangerous and mind-altering psychiatric drugs. Listen to this interview to discover the lies behind mental health screening programs, how the government plans to implement these programs to screen every child in America and why you should resist this dangerous, invasive plan.

 Sign the petition! 

"'The greatest child abuse of our time is the mass drugging of our children'"

TRACI JOHNSON: The volunteer drug-trial participant had no history of physical or mental difficulty
PETER BREGGIN: 'People become victims of the Spellbinding Effect, as I call it, leaving them at the mercy of these drugs because they don't realise they're being harmed; and they can even get a false impression that they're doing better than ever before, when in fact they have an unrealistic euphoria'
Sunday October 15th 2006
TRACI Johnson wanted with all her heart to go back to college. She was a tall 19-year-old brunette with stunning good looks, and a spirited, determined young woman. She was healthy, with no history of physical or emotional difficulties, such as depression. Those closest to her described her as upbeat, an active volunteer and someone who loved life.
She had enrolled as a voluntary participant in a trial to test a new drug for "stress urinary incontinence" for which she was paid US$750 a day - the money she intended to put towards her college fees. She commenced taking the drug in January 2004. Four weeks later, Traci Johnson hanged herself using a scarf in the shower room.
By local state laws, she was not old enough to legally drink a beer; she could not even rent a car. Yet she was deemed mature enough to decide to take an experimental drug on a daily basis.
The drug she was testing is now a widely prescribed antidepressant, Cymbalta.
I am talking to the world-renowned psychiatrist Peter Breggin, who is visiting Ireland this week.
"The real child abusers are my colleagues in psychiatry who have led the way," were his exact words. Then he slowly repeats it.
"They are child abusers. The greatest child abuse of our time is the mass drugging of our children."
Having reflected on the words he chooses to describe doctors who prescribe harmful psychiatric drugs to young children and teenagers in order to "cure" depression or Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD), I find he makes sense.
His time in court over many years has honed his ability for instant dramatic effect. He has acted as a witness in defence of individuals who took cases against the giant drug companies they claimed ruined their lives and almost stole their sanity and their will to live.
Many of them were awarded large fortunes in what became highly publicised landmark cases in the States. But, more important than money, they got back their dignity and their identity.
"I've had dozens of cases of anti-depressant-induced violence, suicide, psychosis, mania. In one extreme case, a man knocked down a policeman with his car in order to grab the policeman's gun to shoot himself; in another case, a man drove his car into a barrier in an attempt to kill his wife, whom he thought had an alien lurking inside her; in both cases these were clearly caused by the drugs.
"People become victims of the 'Spellbinding Effect', as I call it, leaving them at the mercy of these drugs because they don't realise they're being harmed; and they can even get a false impression that they're doing better than ever before, when in fact they?have an unrealistic euphoria."
Breggin walks his own talk. It would be difficult to contradict the statements that are flying like a professional boxer's jabs and hooks, because everything he says is based on almost 50 years of well-practised research. But is depression not all about common sense?
"The problem is that the common sense approach, which is also the most profound approach to depression, leaves biological psychiatry high and dry, because [psychiatry] treats people as if they're broken mechanical devices that can be tinkered with by a person who knows much less about the brain than the average mechanic knows about your car.
"They take the most complex subtle human problems - how to find meaningful work, how to find love, how to live in a world full of violence and disappointments, how to overcome childhood experiences of abuse and oppression - all of these subtle difficult problems that are human problems can be resolved through a whole range of human alternatives from counselling to philosophy and religion, and they treat them in the most ignorant way as mechanical issues."
Pharmaceutical companies and many of his erstwhile colleagues have not disguised their contempt for him since the day he stepped out from the elite ranks of his closely guarded profession.
He says that new pharmaceuticals are branded as wonder drugs with certain beneficial properties. When rivals catch up and start making the same claims for their brands, the PR changes and even greater claims are made.
"So it's all games with words, played to influence the public," Breggin claims.
Breggin, who turned 70 recently, has spent much of his professional life criticising what his own profession stands for, namely the trigger-happy tendency on the part of many doctors and psychiatrists to prescribe harmful, addictive drugs for depression - a condition that is far more receptive to a loving, expressive, empathic relationship.
"We know now, and it's shown in scientific research that these drugs do cause addiction, and they predispose youngsters when they get into their 20s to use cocaine because their brains have become conditioned by [named brand drugs] which are in the same class of stimulant as cocaine.
"These drugs, for the first few weeks, usually have a flattening effect on the child's behaviour. They replace spontaneous behaviour with compulsive behaviour. It is the suppression of normal brain function."
He is the author of 20 bestselling books; one of them, Toxic Psychiatry (1991), made for tough reading. It was the first time we were told head-on about the dangers of some anti-depressants possibly leading to suicide. It took until 2004 for some manufacturers to accept this and include such a warning on the drug's accompanying instructions leaflet.
He says that some drug companies have "led the way in suppressing critics and research. They control the drug market - they've led the way in that regard. I'm not sure what the answer's going to be, because the battle is so lopsided, but then David did bring down Goliath".
So what's all this scientific stuff about chemical imbalances in the brain? I ask.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that depression is caused by a biochemical imbalance. There is none!" He says it is an idea promoted by certain drug companies.
"The only biochemical imbalances that we know of in the brains of people labelled 'mental patients' are the ones caused by psychiatric drugs and electric shock."
Some anti-depressants, he says, have been dubbed "the magic pills". In the States it was hip and trendy to be "popping" these pills and attending "a shrink".
One in five Irish adults takes Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressants (CSO statistics, 2006). That's over half a million people. Are you surprised by such a high figure? I ask.
He sighs. "I was hoping that the Irish had more sense than the Americans - but in this regard it sounds a lot like America. It's a great misfortune, because there's actually very little valid scientific evidence for the effectiveness of these drugs. The way they have gotten approval in the United States is by ignoring all the ways they are no better than a sugar pill, while focusing on the small number of very limited studies that show they are only little better than a sugar pill!
"On the other hand, they cause a lot of harm. They call this the Risk Benefit Ratio. The risk of taking these drugs is rather large; all kinds of physical and psychiatric problems result from taking the drugs, while the benefit is usually small "
Drug companies in the US have paid out millions insettlements.
Breggin was one of the medical experts who evaluated cases on behalf of the claimants, including cases in which individuals died of acute diabetic coma or pancreatitis while being treated with a drug. There have also been lawsuits from people who claimed they suffered severe mental and behavioral abnormalities, including mania, suicidal tendencies, violence, and the onset of a condition called Tardive Dyskinesia (permanent drug-induced abnormal physical behaviour, as a result of taking certain prescribed drugs [SSRIs], characterised by involuntary jerky movements of the face, tongue, jaws, trunk, and limbs).
The drug industry says there is a legitimate concern that the fear surrounding their drugs could mean some patients are not prescribed them. They say it is important that necessary anti-depressant treatments are available to all patients who need them, including children and adolescents, and they say: "Information about the safe use of these products is made publicly available."
Is it really? I don't think so. Seven months prior to the international launch of the drug she was testing, the news of Traci Johnson's suicide started to leak out into small local newspapers around the States. Eventually, it made national headlines. Four others, each diagnosed with depression, also died by suicide while participating in the same trials.
According to an investigation by the London Independent newspaper, all five deaths were "hidden" by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA gave a legal rationale for its silence: "Some clinical trial data are considered 'trade secrets', or commercially protected information, and thus are exempted from release under the Freedom of Information Act."
The FDA has directed the manufacturers of all anti-depressant medications to add a "black box warning" that describes the increased risk of suicidal ideas and fixations in children and adolescents given anti-depressant medications.
Traci Johnson wasn't suffering from depression. She was part of a clinical test into a drug for stress urinary incontinence. Unknown to her, this drug was also being tested as an anti-depressant. I doubt she might have partaken in such tests if she'd known that nine months later the tablets she'd swallowed would carry a "black box" suicide warning.
Peter Breggin, MD, will speak at a day-long conference entitled 'Healing Depression without Drugs or Electric Shocks', next Saturday, October 21, at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. Contact for details or see
Gareth O'Callaghan
the wellbeing foundation
2 Eden Park
Dun Laoghaire


SSRI use during pregnancy is associated with fetal abnormalities

SSRI use during pregnancy is associated with fetal abnormalities

Abergavenny Roger Dobson

Women who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during early pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with a congenital malformation, a new study reports. However, the researchers say that it is not clear whether the increased risk is due to the drugs themselves or to other factors related to the women’s underlying disease.

The research, which was published online ahead of print publication in Epidemiology on 4 October, showed that women who took an SSRI during the second or third month of pregnancy had nearly twice the risk of having children with congenital malformations as women who took no SSRI during pregnancy (, doi: 10.1097/

No increased risk was found among women who used other types of antidepressants or among women who were prescribed SSRIs in late pregnancy.

“Our data indicate a moderately increased risk of congenital malformations associated with prenatal exposure to SSRIs,” write the authors, from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. “Further studies are needed to confirm this risk and to clarify whether the risk is attributable to the drugs themselves, to underlying psychiatric disease, or to other confounding factors.”

They say that the safety of taking SSRIs during pregnancy is an important public health concern but that data on teratogenicity in humans is limited because of small sample sizes.

Among 151 831 women who had a live birth or stillbirth during the study period, 1051 women (0.7%) redeemed a prescription for an SSRI in early pregnancy (the authors included the period from 30 days before conception until the end of the first trimester). Of these, 453 women (0.3%) redeemed their prescription during the second or third month of pregnancy.

The results showed that the 150 780 women with no SSRI prescription gave birth to 5112 children with congenital malformations (3.4%). The 1051 women who redeemed a prescription for an SSRI any time during early pregnancy gave birth to 51 children with congenital malformations (4.9%) (adjusted relative risk 1.34 (95% confidence interval 1 to 1.79)). The 453 women who redeemed a prescription for an SSRI during the second or third month of pregnancy gave birth to 31 children with congenital malformations (6.8%) (adjusted relative risk 1.84 (1.25 to 2.71)).

Most of the malformations among the children of women who redeemed an SSRI prescription in early pregnancy were cardiovascular (29%), muscle and bone (31%), or digestive (14%) malformations.

The authors say it is unclear whether the effects were caused by the SSRIs or were due to factors related to the underlying disease. They say that no evidence was shown that the association was specific to any particular malformation that may point to serotonin itself having some kind of effect.

“The nonspecific increase in risks in our study could support a theory of generalised serotonin-mediated effect on malformations,” they wrote. “The specific SSRIs do not share chemical structures, and it has been speculated that any teratogenicity may be explained by serotonin-mediated effects on the embryonic development.”

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wife Thinks Medication Had Role In Farmer's Death

COLUMBIA, Tenn. -- New questions have been asked about what may have led to the deadly shooting of a Maury County sod farmer.

Police found Robin McFall’s body on his family’s farm in the spring, and his widow Jackie said she thinks his medication could have led to his his death.

“What happened to my husband that day … it clearly wasn’t him,” Jackie McFall said.

She believes that anti-depressants, coupled with medication that Robin McFall had been taking for a heart ailment, ultimately led him to his death.

Jackie Mcfall said that anti-depressants affect people in different ways and that they can change a person.

Robin McFall was killed with a single gunshot. Police had been called after unusual behavior that involved a 20 hour standoff and odd ruminations about Robin McFall wanting to die.

"I have had people say just since my husband died that he would say to them he didn't care if he lived or died,” Jackie McFall said.

Jackie Mcfall said she hopes her experience will make others think twice about how illness is treated.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rethinking ADHD: Pills may not be best solution

Rethinking ADHD: Pills may not be best solution


Spending on ADHD drugs in the U.S. soared from $759 million in 2000 to $3.1 billion in 2004, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information and consulting firm.

In Canada, consumption of Ritalin quadrupled between 1990 and 1996 and the number of prescriptions written per year continues to rise. In fact, Ritalin, Concerta and Dexedrine are the third, fourth and sixth most frequently prescribed medications in pediatrics in Canada. Asthma puffers garner the top two spots and amoxicillin, an antibiotic, sits in the fifth position.

Currently, there are more than 350,000 Canadian children (and over four million Americans) between five and 19 receiving prescriptions for psychostimulant medication in one form or another to treat attention deficit disorder +/- hyperactivity. To justify such widespread use of these controlled medications (amphetamines), there should be strong evidence that these medicines truly benefit recipients, right?

Well, actually, no long-term studies have ever demonstrated these drugs to be effective in helping individuals adapt or adjust to the pressures and demands of school or society. Indeed, available studies provide little evidence that stimulants improve academic performance.

The medications do reduce the "core" features of ADHD – motor restlessness, distractibility and impulsiveness – but do these characteristics produce morbidity severe enough to justify such widespread prescribing considering their side-effect profile?

According to a May 2006 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, side effects and "problems" with widely prescribed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs send 3,100 people to the ER every year – 80 per cent of them children.

"Problems" most often include overdosing or accidental use, and side effects can include chest pain, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, stroke and sudden death. Between 1999 and 2003, 25 deaths linked to ADHD drugs were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 19 involving children. The children affected were taking the medications in dosage and timing as prescribed. Some, but not all of them, had underlying cardiac abnormalities, family history of ventricular tachycardia (an abnormal heart rhythm), or other medical conditions.

In addition, 54 cases of other serious heart problems were reported, including strokes and heart attacks.

In late May 2006, Health Canada issued warnings of heart risks – including sudden death – on all drugs used to treat ADHD. "The effects are usually mild or moderate, but in some patients, this stimulation may – in rare cases – result in cardiac arrests, strokes or sudden death," the agency warned.

The U.S. FDA has also reported some serious psychiatric adverse events in children treated with stimulant medications. These included reports of psychosis or mania with hallucinations that emerged with the drug treatment. The symptoms resolved with discontinuation of the medication in many cases, and recurred with resumption in some.

Based on these reports, the Pediatric Advisory Committee to the FDA in the U.S. has recommended that a Medication Guide describing the potential psychiatric adverse events (as well as the cardiovascular risks) of stimulants be provided at the time the medications are dispensed.

As well, it is suggested that ADHD medications be discontinued in children who develop acute unexpected behavioural reactions, hallucinations, or increased aggression.

Less serious side effects are common. Anorexia or appetite disturbance is present in up to 80 per cent of those receiving stimulant medications, and significant weight loss is seen in 10 to 15 per cent. Sleep disturbances vary in frequency, but reportedly affect between three to 85 per cent, depending on the study and duration of medication use.

What happens to children if ADHD isn’t treated with medication? Well, some studies have shown significant drop-off in problematic features of ADHD as children moved to adolescence and then from adolescence to adulthood, whether or not medication was used.

Mannuzza et al showed, in follow-up of 103 hyperactive children, reduction in diagnosis of full or partial ADD with hyperactivity to 40 per cent during adolescence and eight to 11 per cent in adulthood.

Long-term studies do show many individuals with ADHD to experience problems with education, occupation and social outcome. But these findings are similar whether or not the ADHD subjects had been treated with psychostimulant medication.

While the major side effects of ADHD medications are rare, the utilization of these medications is not. Ultimately, parents need to be informed and knowledgeable about the risks and benefits that stimulant medications carry for their children. And as a society, we all have to ask ourselves if the use of these medications is justifiable or desirable in such numbers.

Perhaps it is time to rethink our current strategy of drug treatment and explore alternative interventions. A pill may offer quick short-term benefits, but there is a cost – and it is potentially very high.

John D. Grant, MD, FRCP(C) pediatrics, lives in Wolfville.


Sanity wins the day

Sanity wins the day
Cold and heartless bureaucracy abandons fight that became matter of life or death
By Licia Corbella
If necessity is the mother of invention, then few people had more of a necessity to invent -- or at least be open to invention -- than Tony Stephan.
On Jan. 29, 1994, like her father before her, his wife, Debora, the mother of Stephan's 10 children, killed herself after suffering for years with bi-polar disorder.
What's worse, two of their children were headed down the same path and despite being on almost maximum doses of traditional anti-psychotic medications, both were getting sicker and sicker.
In November of 1995, Stephan, who is now 53, from Magrath, Alberta, confided to an acquaintance from church, David Hardy, about his son Joseph's manic depression -- how violent the then 15-year-old boy became, to the point the family feared for their lives.
Stephan also mentioned his then 22-year-old married daughter Autumn Stringam was so suicidal -- despite the cocktail of dozens of anti-psychotic drugs she was on -- that when not in hospital she had to be on 24-hour adult supervision to ensure she didn't harm herself or her then three-year old son.
Hardy, a retired high school biology teacher, was then running a livestock supplement feed business in southern Alberta.
He told Stephan that Jo-seph's symptoms sounded remarkably like the pigs he saw that were suffering from ear-and-tail-biting syndrome -- in which hogs get so aggressive they attack one another, sometimes to the death.
All that was needed to calm the hogs down was a mixture of some 24 vitamins and minerals added to their feed.
Stephan was so desperate he said he would try anything.
So, the two men went to health food stores and put together a version of the pig supplement for human consumption.
In January of 1996, Stephan forced his psychotic son to start taking the vitamins and minerals.
Within days the violent teen was markedly better and within a month he was completely normal.
He is now a gentle husband and doting father of a three-month-old daughter.
"I have a great life now," says a joyful Joseph. "I think I'd be dead right now if it wasn't for Empowerplus."
The same happened with Autumn, who has since had three more children.
In more than 10 years, neither has ever had a relapse into madness.
Indeed, just this past summer, Autumn published a beautifully written book about her life of madness and journey to sanity in a gripping autobiography called These Painted Wings.
Having witnessed the remarkable transformations of his children, Stephan and Hardy knew they could not keep such a life-saving and life improving discovery to themselves.
They called their nutrient supplement Empowerplus and the support program and company to administer the supplement Truehope Nutritional Support.
By 2002, 3,000 Canadians were using the supplement, several peer-reviewed papers had been published reporting "significant" and "highly promising" results and psychologist Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, had started double-blind clinical trials at the University of Calgary, with a $500,000 grant from the Alberta government.
The product was being manufactured in the U.S. and shipped to Canadian customers.
But in 2003, Health Canada ordered Canada Customs to seize all shipments at the border.
It raided Truehope's office in southern Alberta and sent thousands of Canadian users into full panic mode. Many began smuggling the product over the border.
Others succumbed to despair and several suicides are attributed to the seizing of the product.
Because Empowerplus was a natural health product and not a drug, it was impossible to get a Drug Identification Number (DIN).
Nevertheless, Health Canada demanded that Empowerplus get a DIN, even though it knew the feds were working on a new law to accommodate natural health products.
On July 28, following a three-week criminal trial in Calgary, Alberta Provincial Court Judge Gerald Meagher found Truehope, Stephan and Hardy not guilty, ruling that the company was entitled to the "defence of necessity."
Judge Meagher said the expert testimony, particularly from Dr. Charles Popper, a Harvard Professor of Psychiatry, who "has most impressive qualifications" was "that if the supplement became unavailable, symptoms associated with de-pression and bi-polar disorder, which would include aggressive behaviour, assaults, hospitalizations and suicides, would return."
Judge Meagher ruled Stephan and Hardy could have "been at risk of criminal prosecution if they stopped providing the supplement and providing the support program.
"Claiming that they had to comply with a DIN regulation would not have provided them with any defence" against the much more serious charges of negligence causing death.
Initially, Health Canada and the Crown filed a notice that it would appeal Judge Meagher's ruling.
But on Oct. 10, they filed a Notice of Abandonment of Appeal.
So, it is both ironic and coincidental that "necessity" helped Stephan and Hardy create a product that has saved many and the necessity to save many became their defence from a cold and heartless bureaucracy.

CBS - National News - VIDEO - Kids - A Chemical Straitjacket

There is growing concern that anti-psychotic drugs are being misused on kids in foster care. Chief national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.
You can add your comments at the above webpage.
If that link doesn't work for you try this one:
CBS News
Are Drugs Being Misused On Foster Kids?
There's Growing Concern That Anti-Psychotic Drugs Are Being Misused On Children In Foster Care
CONROE, Texas, Oct. 18, 2006
Andrea Holcolmb says her son Colby was on at least 20 medications during his 18 months in foster care.

(CBS) Colby Holcomb's mom concedes that the 8-year-old, who's been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, can be a handful at home. But does such behavior merit the treatment Colby received in foster care?

Andrea Holcomb lost custody of her son when he was 7, after her ex-husband made allegations of sexual abuse, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pittsreports. These allegations later proved false — but in the meantime, Colby was placed in the Texas foster care system. For 18 months, he was in at least five foster homes. It's a time that still haunts Colby and his family.

Andrea says Colby was on at least 20 different drugs when he was in foster care. Yet, she says she has "no idea" why and says it was never explained to her.

While in foster care, Colby was also diagnosed as bipolar. According to his medical records, he was taking as many as four medications at the same time that gave him seizures.

"I woke up at the hospital with something stuck in my arm," Colby says.

He is not alone.

"I found babies, 2-year olds, 3-year olds being given mind-altering drugs," says Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas' state comptroller.

Strayhorn conducted her own two-year investigation into allegations that foster kids in Texas are overmedicated.

"Children in foster care in Texas are dying. Children in foster care are being drugged," Strayhorn says.

There are similar allegations being made in California, Ohio and Florida.

"In Florida, for example, foster kids younger than 5 years old were treated with psychiatric medications at a rate nearly four times higher than the general population of children receiving Medicaid.

Gwen Olsen, a former pharmaceuticals representative who quit her job and wrote the book, "Confessions Of A Prescription Drug Pusher," knows firsthand about the impact of anti-psychotic drugs on children.

"They clamp down on the central nervous system. In effect, they reduce your mobility and that sort of thing, so they are sort of like a chemical straitjacket," she says.

Psychiatrist Christopher Correll is leading a nationwide study on the impact of anti-psychotic drugs have on all children.

"It is a serious step to use an anti-psychotic, there’s no doubt about it. But I think it is also very important to realize that these medications are used under very serious circumstances to actually help patients who have serious symptoms," Correll says.

But if the foster care system is designed to protect children who've been harmed, why would they engage in this if in anyway it was harmful to children?

"To me, the true travesty of the situation is that we take children who just got a bum rap in life to begin with and they get into the system and are further abused chemically," Olsen says.

Colby Holcomb is home and feeling better. He is no longer taking any medications — but his mother worries how many Colbys might still be in the system.