Interview with Dr Peter Breggin on Ritalin
Dr. Peter Breggin is a very well-known psychiatrist and author. He has
written Toxic Psychiatry, which is probably the best book that will ever be
done about the drugs that assault minds.
In his written works you can find
numerous citations and references and commentary about every class of
psychiatric compound. Somebody should tell the Gideons to add Toxic
Psychiatry to their list, when they are slipping Bibles in hotel drawers.
It is a sheer classic. Breggin is also a feared expert witness in lawsuits
against drug manufacturers. This man deserves a Nobel. In a quick second.
Our interview does not take up the numerous studies Breggin cites. They are
all there for you in his books, and then there is his website,
www.breggin.com. I have known Peter for 8 years, and I have found him to be
a relentless straight shooter.
Dr. Breggin is in full-time private practice in Maryland. He’s the founder
of the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, and editor of the
journal Ethical Human Sciences and Services. The author of a dozen books,
he did his undergraduate work at Harvard, took his medical training at Case
Western Reserve, was a teaching fellow at Harvard Medical School. He spent
two years as a full-time consultant with the National Institute of Mental
Health. With these impeccable credentials…you would not expect the
Q: You’re now involved as a medical consultant in one of the class-action
suits against Ritalin.
A: Yes. That’s in the works. Ritalin is a compound that is given to
children to drug them, to keep them under control, because parents and
teachers feel they can’t go into the territory of actually learning how to
help kids live better lives. They view this as too hard, and so they go to
the drugs. It’s a crime against children.
Q: Ritalin is massively popular.
A: It is a schedule 2 narcotic, along with heroin and cocaine. That’s an
Q: It is toxic.
A: Oh yes. And there is some evidence to suggest that it causes atrophy of
Q: It is given for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
A: Which is not a disease. No cause has ever been found. I spoke as a
critic of ADHD at a major federal conference…and although they wanted to
emerge from that event with an iron-clad diagnosis for ADHD, they couldn’t.
There is no singular cause. There is no biological or chemical cause they
Q: So there is no way to say they have a disease.
A: None. It’s a fiction.
Q: ADHD is a fiction.
A: There are kids with various problems, some of which are related to their
parents, but there is no ADHD.
Q: They say there is.
A: Lots of people say lots of things, but that doesn’t make them true.
Q: Why are thousands of psychiatrists selling ADHD?
A: Because their profession and their minds have been taken over by
Q: You seem to be the one who has nailed that down.
A: I took the time and the trouble. It’s there for anyone who wants to see
Q: You’re an MD. You went through all the training. Then you became a
psychiatrist. You’ve worked as a consultant for the federal government in
mental health. You have all the credentials anyone could want.
A: Eli Lilly [the maker of Prozac] has tried to smear me on that count,
saying I wasn’t really a credible doctor. So I pulled out the resume’.
They were being ridiculous.
Q: And you turned on the medical-training hand that fed you and you have
been gnawing on it.
A: Are you saying I’m ungrateful?
Q: Are you?
A: Not at all. I’m looking at the facts. About 20 years ago, the
pharmaceutical industry rescued psychiatry. Which was in a terrible
doldrum. Patients were deserting their shrinks all over the place. People
just didn’t think the whole process was that worthwhile. The drug industry
came in and said, “We’ll fund your societies. We’ll support the journals
and the conferences. We’ll pay the bills.”
Q: In exchange for?
A: Making psychiatry into a pharmacy. Making the bio-wing of psychiatry
triumphant over talk therapy. From that point on it would be all about
mental diseases and chemical imbalances and the drugs to treat them.
Q: What about the thousands of published studies which indicate that there
are hundreds and hundreds of mental diseases which, in fact, need drug
A: It’s terrible science. That’s the main thing to say about it. It’s very
badly done science. Speculations about mental diseases are elevated into
medical certainties without any real proof.
Q: Are you saying that many mental diseases aren’t real diseases?
A: No. I’m saying that NONE of them are diseases.
A: None. Clear enough?
A: You finally see that the proof is not there. The specific biological or
chemical indicators of actual diseases are missing.
Q: What about depression?
A: It’s another non-disease that is placed like a blanket over many, many
different situations in people’s lives.
Q: But a person can be depressed.
A: In the non-technical sense of that word, sure. But when you say that
this is a condition caused by the malfunction of a neurotransmitter system,
then you are making something else out of it. And you are stating a
falsehood. Serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter of choice, is not a
proven cause of depression.
Q: Yet the medication they’re giving for it—
A: --Prozac, or one of the other SSRIs, is to increase the level of
serotonin. But you see, once again we have two wrongs. The condition
itself has no proven cause or real definition, and the drug for it is not a
precise shifter of that particular neurotransmitter. With ADHD, we have no
disease, and Ritalin is not really a calming drug for so-called
hyperactivity. Over time, Ritalin causes a child to become hyperactive in
Q: Prozac is not precise.
A: No. It can affect a number of different neurotransmitter systems. These
systems are related.
Q: Ritalin can also cause a child to become depressed. I’ve heard you say
A: Yes, in the non-technical sense of that word. And then you’ll find a
psychiatrist telling the parents that he is seeing the sudden unannounced
presence of an entirely new condition, for which he has to prescribe Prozac
or Zoloft or Paxil. It’s gross blindness on the part of the psychiatrist.
Q: He doesn’t want to admit that the Ritalin can cause an adverse effect.
A: That’s right.
Q: The blindness seems willful to me.
A: Sometimes it is.
Q: In Toxic Psychiatry you write that the neuroleptics, the 20 or so
compounds sometimes called major tranquilizers, have caused a million cases
of brain damage in the US since 1954.
A: Yes. I argue that case with the help of certain clear studies. This
represents a devastating plague.
Q: I find it hard to think of such enormous and continuous harm as a mere
A: I know.
Q: I’ve read your work on psychiatry as “a death machine,” as you call it.
A: It was the psychiatrists in Germany who really gave Hitler the idea for
euthanasia, for the murder of people who were considered useless
Q: And that impulse is still alive.
A: Look at the drugs. They are all, every class of them, highly dangerous.
Q: Without exception?
A: That’s right.
Q: It must have been quite a revelation to be a psychiatrist and then to see
A: It didn’t happen all at once. But it happened.
Q: You don’t shirk away from calling this evil.
A: Being a psychiatrist does not erase the need to make moral assessments.
Q: You stress the importance of not withdrawing from psychiatric drugs
without good supervision.
A: It can bring on very dangerous symptoms. I’ve now written about that.
Q: You and I have talked before about the dangers of these drugs. But the
fact that they are all out there, are being pushed, are being written about
in journals as if everything is OK…
A: It’s pretty overwhelming.
Q: It’s a war crime in progress.
A: Yes. The education of the doctor comes into play here. In a
pharmaceutically dominated society, the doctor is going to learn that this
is the way. This is what he must offer the patient. It becomes as
ingrained as roads are for cars.
Q: It paints a pretty robotic picture.
A: The psychiatrist accepts the bad science that establishes the existence
of all these mental diseases in the first place. From there it’s just a
walk down the street to all the drugs as remedies.
Q: And the so-called side effects are dismissed as inevitable. “This is the
best that science can offer right now. We’re trying our best.”
A: Sure. The psychiatrists who advised Hitler told him a good story too.
They made their case for murder on arguments that sounded scientific.
Q: You always point out that studies on the drugs are funded by the
companies that make the drugs.
A: That is so often the case it’s absurd. And then the researchers who are
carrying out the studies are paid by those companies. What results do you
expect? In the case of a licensing study for Xanax, they found that after 6
weeks or so people on the drug were doing better than those on the placebo.
But as they continued the trial, the figures reversed, and finally by the
end of the study the people on the placebo were doing as well as people on
Xanax. So they just selected the 6-week cut-off point, where the drug had
looked very good—and they published that part of the study as if it were the
Q: Are you optimistic about the upcoming class-action suit against Ritalin?
A: Yes. It’s basically a suit against Novartis, the manufacturer, and the
American Psychiatric Association, and CHADD, a parent-education group that
recommends Ritalin. The suit is charging that these entities artificially
inflated the perceived need for Ritalin and that this is basically fraud.
Q: If ADHD is a created non-disease in the first place, and Ritalin is the
drug of choice, then the degree of “inflation of need” is 100 percent.
A: That’s the point, isn’t it?