By Gwen Olsen
The explosion of mental illness diagnoses given to children in the US in the past twenty years is unprecedented anywhere else in the world. Millions of children have been labeled with childhood mental illnesses and are taking prescribed medications. The extent is pandemic in the US, as an estimated 1 out of 7 school-age children is using at least one psychotropic drug, and many children are on several. An analysis of the data shows an estimated 40-fold (4,000 percent) increase in the number of children on psychiatric drugs between 1970 and 2000.1 According to US figures for mental illness, the growing daily disability rate of 1,100 people is comprised of 850 adults and 250 children, and it is growing.2
Since the advent of the psychopharmacologic age some 50 years ago with the discovery of Thorazine, the increasein psychotropic drug use continues to eclipse all other drug categories on a year-to-year growth basis. In 2009, children were by far the largest growth demographic for the pharmaceutical industry and prescriptions for children grew at four times the rate of the general population. Over the past nine years, the most substantial increases in the medicating of children have been for conditions not typically associated with them, such as drugs for type 2 diabetes and antipsychotics. 3 Interestingly, antipsychotic drugs have been shown to cause metabolic dysfunction and induce diabetes, in both children and adults.4
What is driving the momentum behind this epidemic of drugging our children? Could it be that increased awareness created by public service campaigns is driving diagnosis and treatment of these disorders? Or, is that merely a component of a much larger marketing initiative on the part of the pharmaceutical industry to expand psychotropic drug use into new patient populations such as our children?
I spent the span of fifteen years in the pharmaceutical industry, learning and employing the most highly effective marketing tactics known in professional sales. My training as a specialist and hospital representative was exceptional, and I was an excellent observer, a good student, and an accomplished participant. I can say with confidence that the pharmaceutical industry has identified a lucrative, new profit-center and is pushing expensive, dangerous, antipsychotic drugs on our youngest, most vulnerable citizens—our children.
Disease Mongering: Creating Fear and Angst
One of the biggest problems for drug manufacturers is finding new places to expand the usage of existing products that will subsequently gain new indications and patent extensions. That is why a blood pressure drug shown to cause the side effect of hirsutism gets re-developed and branded into another drug for hair growth and is marketed for baldness.
The pharmaceutical industry is continually on the lookout for expansion markets, and they recognize our children to be the most lucrative, long-term expansion market currently available to them. Where children are concerned, when fear can be created, parents can be seen racing to the doctor’s office and/or pharmacy in an attempt to protect their children. After all, isn’t that what all “good” parents do?
Not only is the pharmaceutical industry in the business of selling drugs, it is also in the business of selling fear. In the words of health activist and physician, Joseph Mercola: “They want you to feel frightened for your health, as that is a very powerful motivating emotion. The goal of the campaign is to create a picture where relying on them for the solution (to the issue they made you fearful of ) is necessary. This creates a dependency and annuity that enriches their bottom line.”5
Children are a lucrative expansion market for any drug, particularly one that requires life-long maintenance therapy once initiated. Not only that, psychiatric diagnoses are highly subjective and based primarily on third-party interpretation of maladaptive behaviors, rather than medical diagnostic tests such as blood, urine, PET, or CAT scans. Increasing psychiatric drug sales is primarily contingent upon the number of psychiatric diagnoses and creating public “awareness” of the various diagnoses that will, in turn, result in the expansion of new patient populations to be treated. The pharmaceutical industry, when marketing psychotropic drugs for children, must market to doctors, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, caretakers, and legislators who then have to be persuaded that these medications are both necessary and beneficial for children. To meet this goal, it is necessary for the industry to insidiously exert its influence in every aspect of pharmaceutical development, research, reporting, regulation, funding, advertising, promotion, and distribution. And, indeed, they do! The end result are “stealth” marketing campaigns that can wear many hats and disguises as they manipulate and promote their self-serving agenda unilaterally throughout the entire healthcare system.
Key Opinion Leaders: Pharmaceutical Industry Shills in Academia
Unlike most disease, which is discovered scientifically in the laboratory by the objective detection of some physical or chemical abnormality, psychiatric “illnesses” are determined by a group of “experts” from the American Psychiatric Association who decide that certain behaviors (called “symptoms”) are abnormal and then vote these sets of behavior into existence as a “disease.” For example, ADD was voted into existence in 1980 and ADHD in 1987. No child labeled as ADHD has ever met a medical standard that confirms the existence of a specific pathology connoting disease. It can’t be done because no such standard exists. In the words of retired neurologist Fred Baughman, Jr., who has been credited with the discovery of real neurological disease, “ADHD is a total, complete, 100 percent fraud.”6
Pediatric Bipolar Disorder (PBD), another newlydeveloped “affliction” used to describe children in the US, is apparently unique to our area of the world as well. International psychiatrists are perplexed as to why US doctors would so readily buy into this marketing initiative. Prior to the 1990s, scientific literature and clinical experience did not substantiate the existence of a bipolar illness in prepubertal children. However, children and adolescents who are prescribed stimulants such as ADHD medications and antidepressants often suffer manic episodes. So, once these categories of drugs became commonly prescribed to children, bipolar “symptoms” also became prevalent in pediatric populations. Thus, the literature and physicians began reporting the increased emergence of youth with bipolar symptoms.7
A leading child psychiatrist from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Joseph Biederman, popularized PBD by providing the diagnostic framework that made it possible. His “reconceptualization” of children with conduct disorder led to a 40-fold increase of bipolar diagnoses in children in the last decade. Biederman’s “discovery” provided the pharmaceutical industry with a new expansion population for what was once an exceedingly rare mental illness (even in the adult population, bipolar disorder was considered to be roughly only 1 percent), and opened up untapped markets for the new atypical antipsychotic drugs, which were competing with older and considerably less expensive generic drugs in the psychiatric market.
The US Congress investigated Biederman for his financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry in 2008, whereupon Congress discovered that he had failed to disclose nearly $1.6 million in income from pharmaceutical manufacturers to his Harvard employers. While being deposed in 2009, Biederman explained the genesis of PBD as such: Since all psychiatric diagnoses “are subjective in children and adults,” he said that he and his colleagues had decided that children who presented pronounced behavioral problems should instead be diagnosed with PBD. “These children have been called in the past [as having] conduct disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder. It’s not that these children did not exist, they were just under different names,” Biederman testified. He went on to say that they had decided that “severe irritability” or “affective storms” would be the determining diagnostic criteria for PBD diagnosis. So, in 1996 Biederman and his colleagues announced that many children who were previously diagnosed with ADHD were actually bipolar, or were comorbid for both diseases. Furthermore, according to Biederman, the condition was much more common than had previously been thought and often appeared when children were only 4 or 5 years old, Biederman was a prolific psychiatric researcher, and his work was referenced in numerous prestigious medical journals.8
In 2007, Biederman was ranked as the second highest producer of high-impact papers in the field of psychiatry overall throughout the world, with 235 papers cited a total of 7,048 times over the past 10 years as determined by the Institute for Scientific Information.9 Furthermore, “Newly disclosed court documents portray Dr. Joseph Biederman…as courting drug company money by promising that his work at Massachusetts General Hospital would help promote the use of antipsychotic drugs for youngsters diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” which further suggests that the PBD genesis may have been entirely profit-driven by corporate interests.10
Practically everyone knows of someone’s child who has been labeled bipolar. Unfortunately and as previously stated, many of these bipolar symptoms stem from prior psychotropic drug use. A large study of children from the Luci Bini Mood Disorders Clinic in New York diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder found that 84 percent of the children treated for bipolar disorder had been previously exposed to psychiatric medications. The study’s author reported, “Strikingly, in fewer than 10 percent of the cases was diagnosis of bipolar disorder considered initially.”11 For many years, it had been concluded in the medical literature that mania did not occur in children. The general belief was that manic-depressive states were an illness of the maturing or matured personality only. However, after psychiatrists began prescribing stimulant drugs to “hyperactive” children in the late 1960s and early 1970s, more and more of these case reports started to emerge inthe medical literature.12
When I was selling psychiatric drugs, manufacturers of antidepressants recommended that these be used as a diagnostic tool for uncovering latent bipolar illness in depressed patients. We never suggested to the doctor that the drugs might be the cause of these manic episodes rather than the patient’s underlying “disease state.” Oftentimes, drugs that are administered for ADHD such as Ritalin and Adderall, as well as SSRI and SNRI antidepressants or even atypical antipsychotics, can induce varying degrees of manic behaviors—including psychosis—as an adverse effect of the drug. Healthcare providers often unwittingly misdiagnose these reactions as symptoms of a “mixed state” bipolar illness. This form of bipolar illness is considered more severe and generally has a poor prognosis. The symptoms are then exacerbated and/or magnified by the introduction of additional, possibly stronger, cocktails of psychotropic medications to treat the so-called “mixed state.” Even if a conscientious practitioner later realizes that the child is reacting to a chemical assault on the body and brain and succeeds in detoxifying the child into recovery, the psychiatric labels given early on in life can carry an accompanying stigma that cannot be as easily shaken later.
The pharmaceutical industry is just as aggressive in its tactics to silence its critics as it is to woo its supporters. Respected scientists and doctors have been defamed in the press and even fired for daring to draw attention to the hazards and risks of suicide, violence, and premature death associated with the use of psychiatric drugs in children and adolescents.13
To read the full article, please see the January/February 2017 Issue (available in print or digital format).
This issue is also included in our Children: Nutrition, Vaccines & Drugs special collection, available here.
See Gwen Olsen’s book Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher here
Editors’ Notes: Psychiatric Drugs and Gun-Related Violence
Julian Whitaker, MD, reports that psychiatric medications, antidepressants, or other drugs were being taken by individuals who perpetrated twenty-four well-known gun violence cases, including those in schools. Additionally, between 2004 and 2011, the FDA listed 12,755 reports of psychiatric medications relating to violence. Whitaker: “According to the FDA, fewer than ten percent of adverse reactions are reported.” Thus, multiply the reported numbers by ten to get a truer picture of the effects of antidepressants such as Trazodone, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, Luvox, and Celexa as well as SSRIs and other mood- and behavior-altering drugs.
Adam Lanza started taking psychiatric medications at age ten. On December 14, 2012, at twenty-one years of age, he killed his mother and, with an assault rifle and two handguns he killed 20 children and six adults, then himself, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Either antidepressants or mood-stabilizing drugs such as Tegretol (for bipolar disorder) Geodon, BuSpar, Xanax, benzodiazepines, as well as Ambien, a sleeping aid, and Valium, an anti-anxiety drug and even more drugs were being taken by individuals in well-known violence cases. The list includes Eric Harris of the Columbine, Colorado school killings; Kip Kinkel of the Springfield, Oregon killings; TJ Solomon, who shot six of his high school classmates (he was taking Ritalin); and Pekka-Eric Auvinen of Jokela, Finland who killed seven at school and wounded a dozen others (he was taking antidepressants).
Who is the FDA protecting, the public or the pharmaceutical companies and their stockholders who want new drugs rushed to market despite only minimal periods of testing? 1
Robert Rowen, MD, writes, “If you look at many school shootings, including Columbine…there’s been another common denominator…the
perpetrators have been on licensed doctor-prescribed, FDA-approved mind-altering drugs, like antidepressants. It’s no secret that these drugs can lead to violence. It’s one of the known side-effects…. Pundits create or classify normal human behaviors as mental illness requiring these chemicals. For example, they’re pushing Prozac as a remedy for depression in children in my CME activities (continuing medical education credits). Prozac carries a warning about altered dangerous behavior…!” 2
It appears that the Newton, Connecticut, killer, Adam Lanza, was also on a mind-altering drug-Fanapt. One of the many side effects listed for Fanapt is “mood or behavioral changes, or thoughts of hurting yourself or others.” With a known side effect like this, why don’t we look at the drugs as a proximate cause of these killings? For more information see http://www.psychdrugshooters.com/. This website lists all shootings recorded and the psychiatric drugs being taken by the shooters.
The above is an updated version of an article originally published in Well Being Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3, May/June 2013, www.wellbeingjournal.com
Behind mental distress or psychiatric disorders, which are not necessarily due to a deficiency of drugs, there is often a case of being unloved. Former Navy Commander Suzanne Giesemann writes, “Power moves, acts of anger or fear-all of these are cries for love that started so far back they have become perverted to the point that most do not recognize that it is an emptiness that fuels the outward acts.… There is one who performed miracles, for he understood Truth and did not play by the rules. You can be a seed sower. Let others know how loved they are. They are crying out for it all over your headlines. Love your children. Love thy neighbor with all your heart and soul. It is why you are here.” 3
The Parkland, Florida school shooting suspect at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz has been reported to have been mentally unstable and depressed since his childhood as an adopted child and difficult life events for a child. Investigators are still trying to determine the drugs that were given to him since he was a child. See more at https://www.washingtonpost.com florida-shooting-suspect-had-a-history-of-explosive-anger-depression-killing-animals and www.Miamiherald.com “Florida school shooting suspect was ex-student who was flagged as a threat.”
- Julian Whitaker’s Health & Healing, February 2013
- Robert Rowen’s Second Opinion, January 25, 2013, www.secondopinionnewsletter.com