My name is John Breeding. I am a psychologist here in Austin, Texas, and I work a lot with children and families. I am a father of two children, Eric, 13, and Vanessa, 9. I am also founding director of a citizens group called Texans For Safe Education. I speak to you today from all three of these positions, but most significantly on behalf of Texans For Safe Education. Our group's concern is with the ever-increasing role of psychiatry in the schools, and especially with the harmful and dangerous effects of the psychiatric drugs which are being given to our school children at in alarmingly increasing numbers.
We are establishing a relationship with you because we are gravely concerned about our children and our schools, and because of your own positions as members of the Texas State Board of Education. I deeply appreciate your dedication and commitment to the educational well-being of our state's children, and the personal sacrifices of time and energy that each of you has demonstrated by your willingness to take on such an important responsibility. I am honored to be sharing my testimony with you today.
I have spoken personally with a few of you on the Board, and our group has submitted informational materials to all of you earlier this spring. Just now, I will highlight a handful of key points we would like you to deeply consider. In a future meeting of your Board, we want you to make a statement in the form of a non-binding resolution on the issue of prescribed psychiatric drugs and our children's education.
There are eight major points I will now bring to your attention.
- First, we are giving powerful, toxic mood-altering drugs to approximately 15% of our school-age children. (See attached estimate of 8,000,000 school-age children in the United States; 1,000,000 in Texas)
- Second, there is no scientific evidence to validate the diagnosis, ADHD, which is the most prevalent so-called disease for which these children are given these drugs. Virtually every expert across the country will acknowledge this fact when directly questioned. (See attached paper, "Is ADHD a Real Disease?")
- Third, these drugs do not really help our children. Research clearly shows that these drugs have absolutely no positive long-term effect on any criteria we value for our children--no positive effect on academic, cognitive, behavioral or social outcomes. (See Swanson, J.S, McBurnett, K. etal., "Stimulant medication and the treatment of children with Att Def Dis: A Review of Reviews" Exceptional Children, Vol 60, 1993, pp 154-161.)
- Fourth, these drugs cause a wide variety of harmful physical and emotional effects, clearly listed in the Physician's Desk Reference, clearly demonstrated in the research. ( See chart in attached Policy Review article for a listing of the effects on several of the body's organ systems)
- Fifth, death is one of these effects. Stephanie Hall, 11, of Canton, Ohio, died in her sleep the day she started an increased dose of Ritalin. On March 21, 2000, Matthew Smith, 14, of Clawson, Michigan, fell from his skateboard, moaned, turned blue and died. His myocardium (heart muscle) was diffusely scarred, it"s coronary arteries, diffusely narrowed. Ritalin was, indisputably, the cause of death. Randy Steele, 9, of Bexar, County, Texas, became unresponsive and pulseless while being restrained in a psychiatric facility. His heart was found to be "enlarged." He had been diagnosed ADHD and had been on Dexedrine; d-amphetamine. Of the 2,993 adverse reactions to Ritalin, reported to the FDA, from 1990 to 1997, there were 160 deaths and 569 hospitalizations. 126 of these adverse reactions were 'cardiovascular.'
- Sixth, these drugs are being used recreationally in increasing numbers by middle and high school age students. Emergency room admissions for methylphenidate are becomings as frequent as those for cocaine. (See attached article, "Ritalin Abuse on the Rise.")
- Seventh, there is alarming evidence that these drugs are associated with incidents of school violence. In 1998 and 1999, Oregon's Kip Kinkel, Colorado's Eric Harris, and California's Steven Abrams are dramatic examples. There is an ample body of research demonstrating that these psychiatric drugs can cause aggressive or violent behavior toward self or others in a percentage of patients who take them, either while on the drugs or in the withdrawal period.
- Eighth, a profound effect of this psychiatric approach to children is that no one assumes responsibility. Children are deprived of their need and right to develop a character and an ability to self-regulate without drugs. An all too common first response when a problem arises is not to address the problem, but to ask, "Did you take your Ritalin today?"
Perhaps even more significant is that all of the adults are absolved of responsibility. Routine reliance on diagnosis, labeling, and giving psychiatric drugs to our children acts to distract us from the effort required to keep thinking and come up with real solutions to the great challenges we face. It is not that biopsychiatry in the schools is our only educational problem; it is that this approach interferes with the courageous head-on facing of the problems. The fact is that biopsychiatry harms our children and makes things worse for the reasons described above.
The last documents I am leaving with you are examples of two recent resolutions on these issues involving significant authoritative bodies in this country. The first is a copy of House Resolution 459, currently under consideration by the United States Congress. One of its assertions is that the Congress should "acknowledge the efforts of state and local education agencies, and support their conclusions and resolutions, regarding the prevalence among school children of prescription psychotropic drugs and the growing crisis of classroom management."
The second is a copy of the resolution passed by the Colorado State Board of Education on November 11, 1999. I hope you will consider it as a model to consider in Texas. A primary emphasis of the resolution is the same as that which we hold as Texans For Safe Education; that is, to "encourage school personnel to use proven academic and'or management solutions to resolve behavior, attention, and learning difficulties."
Thank you for your time and attention. I am happy to respond to any questions, now or at any future time.
John Breeeding, PhD
Director, Texans For Safe Education
2503 Douglas Street
Austin, Texas 78741