|Can it be a disease if no X-ray, CT scan, blood test, laboratory
analysis, MRI, or any other medical test can confirm its existence? Can
it be a disease if diagnosis can be made by a non-physician checking any
8 of 14 items on a behavior checklist such as inattention, impulsivity,
hyperactivity, or short attention span?
Yet, an estimated two million children (three times as many boys as
girls) have been labeled with this disease and are taking a powerful
drug to treat it. That's four times as many as in 1990.
The disease is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and the most widely used drug to treat it
is methylphenidate, known as Ritalin. A powerful stimulant, it juices up
the central nervous system, takes effect in 30 minutes, and peters out
in three to four hours. Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II
controlled substance in the same category as cocaine, methadone and
In 1991 the U.S. Department of Education formally recognized ADHD as
a handicap under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. After the Department
directed all state education officers to ensure that local school
districts establish procedures to screen and identify ADHD children and
give them special educational and psychological services, generous
funding suddenly began to flow.
Public schools have learned how to tap into free-flowing federal
funds from Medicaid. Letters sent home to parents brag that the schools
"will use this new revenue to add more services for children who
require specialized health care, social services, mental health care,
speech therapy, counseling, and psychological services."
The Capital Research Center has exposed how Goals 2000 is used as a
cover to authorize programs in health care and create a system in which
children selected by teachers are regularly tested for emotional,
social, mental, and physical disorders (such as ADD and ADHD) in clinics
inside the public schools. Once children are diagnosed and labeled with
one of these conditions, school health officials have the authority to
treat them by prescribing and administering such medications as Ritalin,
Valium, Lorazepam and Prozac.
Goals 2000 proposals receive funding from the Department of
Education, Medicaid, Maternal and Child Health (Title X) block grants,
state programs, and private foundations. Private foundations and
government agencies have teamed up to develop, coordinate and support a
variety of public school systems to govern the health and behavior of
children, sometimes under the name Children's Initiative.
A Pittsburgh-based foundation that will not allow its name to be
disclosed provided grants for two projects named "Pharmacological
and Psychosocial Treatment of ADHD" and "Community-Based
Treatment for ADHD: Summer Treatment Programs and School-Wide
Interventions" to be operated by the University of Pittsburgh and
the Gateway School District in Pennsylvania. The grant funds were
matched by taxpayers' money from the federal National Institutes of
Mental Health. One portion of this project, called the "Pittsburgh
School Wide Intervention Model," uses a procedure called
sociometrics, in which children are asked to answer a lot of nosy
questions about the other kids in their class, such as who they do not
want to be friends with. The children are instructed not to discuss the
questions and answers with anyone else.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special
Education Programs, under contract HS92017001, gave the Chesapeake
Institute of Washington, D.C. the funding to produce two slick videos: Facing
the Challenges of ADD featuring actress Rita Moreno, and One
Child in Every Classroom with Frank Sesno as moderator. Parts of the
videos sound like an infomercial for Ritalin.
In a PBS documentary following eight months of investigation, a
Department of Education spokesman was asked if he was aware that the
parents who spoke so enthusiastically about Ritalin on the videos were
board members of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD),
and if he knew that CHADD has received cash grants of $900,000 plus
in-kind services from Ciba-Geigy, the manufacturer of Ritalin. Obviously
embarrassed, the bureaucrat denied such knowledge.
It's clear that the Department of Education does not adhere to
professional standards of disclosure. When anything is published in the Journal
of the American Medical Association, for example, the author must
sign a statement in which he reveals "any affiliations with or
financial involvement in any organization or entity with a direct
financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in the
John Merrow, executive producer of the PBS documentary, reported that
Ritalin is so plentiful that a black market has developed on the school
playground. Ritalin can be crushed and snorted for a cheap and modest
buzz, and it has become a "gateway drug" in junior high
school, the first drug a child experiments with.
Parents of a child who is diagnosed, labeled, or treated by
school-paid personnel would be well-advised to seek an independent,
unbiased medical opinion.