Why Did They Do It? An Inquiry Into the School Shootings in America is the first of a series of reports from The Truth Seeker Foundation
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Why Did They Do It? An Inquiry into the School Shootings in America by Jon Rappoport
The massacre at Columbine High School took place on April 20, 1999. Astonishingly, for eight days after the tragedy, during thousands of hours of prime-time television coverage, virtually no one mentioned the word "drugs." Then the issue was opened. Eric Harris, one of the shooters at Columbine, was on at least one drug.
The NY Times of April 29, 1999, and other papers reported that Harris was rejected from enlisting in the Marines for medical reasons. A friend of the family told the Times that Harris was being treated by a psychiatrist. And then several sources told the Washington Post that the drug prescribed as treatment was Luvox, manufactured by Solvay.
In two more days, the "drug-issue" was gone.
Luvox is of the same class as Prozac and Zoloft and Paxil. They are labeled SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). They attempt to alleviate depression by changing brain-levels of the natural substance serotonin. Luvox has a slightly different chemical configuration from Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, and it was approved by the FDA for obsessive-compulsive disorder, although many doctors apparently prescribe it for depression.
Had Eric Harris been on other drugs as well? Ritalin? Prozac? Tranquilizers? As yet we don't know.
Prozac is the wildly popular Eli Lilly antidepressant which has been linked to suicidal and homicidal actions. It is now given to young children. Again, its chemical composition is very close to Luvox, the drug that Harris took.
Dr. Peter Breggin, the eminent psychiatrist and author (Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, Talking Back to Ritalin), told me, "With Luvox there is some evidence of a four-percent rate for mania in adolescents. Mania, for certain individuals, could be a component in grandiose plans to destroy large numbers of other people. Mania can go over the hill to psychosis."
Dr. Joseph Tarantolo is a psychiatrist in private practice in Washington DC. He is the president of the Washington chapter of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. Tarantolo states that "all the SSRIs [including Prozac and Luvox] relieve the patient of feeling. He becomes less empathic, as in `I don't care as much,' which means `It's easier for me to harm you.' If a doctor treats someone who needs a great deal of strength just to think straight, and gives him one of these drugs, that could push him over the edge into violent behavior."
In Arianna Huffington's syndicated newspaper column of July 9, 1998, Dr. Breggin states, "I have no doubt that Prozac can cause or contribute to violence and suicide. I've seen many cases. In a recent clinical trial, 6 percent of the children became psychotic on Prozac. And manic psychosis can lead to violence."
Huffington follows up on this: "In addition to the case of Kip Kinkel, who had been a user of Prozac [Kinkel was the shooter in the May 21, 1998, Springfield, Oregon, school massacre], there are much less publicized instances where teenagers on Prozac or similar antidepressants have exploded into murderous rages: teenagers like Julie Marie Meade from Maryland who was shot to death by the police when they found her waving a gun at them. Or Ben Garris, a 16-year old in Baltimore who stabbed his counselor to death. Or Kristina Fetters, a 14-year old from Des Moines, Iowa, who stabbed her favorite great aunt in a rage that landed her a life sentence."
Dr. Tarantolo also has written about Julie Marie Meade. In a column for the ICSPP (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology) News, "Children and Prozac: First Do No Harm," Tarantolo describes how Julie Meade, in November of 1996, called 911, "begging the cops to come and shoot her. And if they didn't do it quickly, she would do it to herself. There was also the threat that she would shoot them as well."
The police came within a few minutes, "5 of them to be exact, pumping at least 10 bullets into her head and torso."
Tarantolo remarks that a friend of Julie said Julie "had plans to make the honor roll and go to college. He [the friend] had also observed her taking all those pills." What pills? Tarantolo called the Baltimore medical examiner, and spoke with Dr. Martin Bullock, who was on a fellowship at that office. Bullock said, "She had been taking Prozac for four years."
Tarantolo asked Bullock, "Did you know that Prozac has been implicated in impulsive de novo violence and suicidalness?" Bullock said he was not aware of this.
Tarantolo writes, "Had she recently increased the dosage? Was she taking other drugs? Drugs such as Ritalin, cocaine, amphetamine, and tricyclic antidepressants (Tofranil, Pamelor, Elavil) could all potentiate the effect of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors include Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil)."
In layman's language, mixing these drugs could tinker in ignorance with basic brain chemistry and bring on horrendous violent behavior.
Tarantolo is careful to point out, "A change [in Julie's drug-taking pattern] was not necessary, though, to explain her behavior. Violent and suicidal behavior have been observed both early (a few weeks) and late (many months) in treatment with Prozac."
The November 23rd, 1996, Washington Post reported the Julie Meade death by shooting. The paper mentioned nothing about Prozac. This was left to a more penetrating newspaper, the local PG County Journal-the Maryland county in which the shooting took place.
Why did the Post never mention Prozac or interview any of a growing number of psychiatrists who have realized the danger of giving these drugs to children (and adults)?
Is it because major media outlets enjoy considerable support from pharmaceutical advertisers? Is it because these companies have been running successful PR campaigns to keep their drugs' names quiet when suicides and murders are reported?
Another small paper, The Vigo Examiner (Terra Haute, Indiana), looked into the May 21, 1998, murders in Springfield, Oregon. The shooter, who had been on Prozac, Kip Kinkel, was a 15-year-old freshman. First he killed his parents, then walked into his school cafeteria and gunned down fellow students. He killed 2 and wounded 22. He is awaiting trial.
Vigo Examiner reporter Maureen Sielaff covered this story. Showing straightforward independence where many big-time reporters just don't, Sielaff researched the book, Prozac and Other Psychiatric Drugs, by Lewis A. Opler, MD. She writes, "The following side effects are listed for Prozac: apathy; hallucinations; hostility; irrational ideas; paranoid reactions; antisocial behavior; hysteria; and suicidal thoughts." An explosive cocktail of symptoms.
A day or two after the Littleton, Colorado, shootings, a teenager in Los Angeles, depressed about Littleton, hung himself. The boy had been under treatment for depression. Did that mean Prozac? Zoloft? Luvox? Will any reporter look into that incident?
The Jonesboro, Arkansas, school shooting took place on March 24, 1998. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, apparently faked a fire alarm at Westside Middle School. Then when everyone came outside, the boys fired from the nearby woods, killing four students and a teacher, wounding 11 other people. Charged as juveniles, the boys were convicted of capital murder and battery. They can be held in jail until they are 21 years old. Dr. Alan Lipman, of Georgetown University, one of the experts interviewed on network television after Littleton, remarked that at least one of the boys who committed murder in Jonesboro had been, before the incident, treated for violent behavior. Treated how? With Prozac, with Zoloft, with a combination of antidepressants? The action of these drugs-altering the supply of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin-is touted by some people as a potential cure for violence. The only problem is, there is no acknowledged proof within the broad psychiatric profession that serotonin is a causative factor in violence. That is an unproven theory.
Not that unproven theories stop the dedicated from experimenting on brains of the young.
We must get a complete review of the medical history of the two Littleton shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
In the aftermath of other school shootings, have parents tried to find answers? With what responses have their efforts been met?
In Olivehurst, California, on May 1, 1992, Eric Houston, 20, killed 4 people and wounded 10 at his former high school. Houston was sentenced to death.
On January 18, 1993, in Grayhurst, Kentucky, Scott Pennington, 17, entered Deanna McDavid's English class at East Carter High School and shot her in the head. He also shot Marvin Hicks, the school janitor, in the stomach. Pennington was sentenced to life, without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
In Richmond, Virginia, on October 30, 1995, Edward Earl Spellman, 18, shot and wounded 4 students outside their high school.
On February 2, 1996, in an algebra class at Frontier Junior High School in Mose Lake, Washington, Barry Loukaitas, 14, killed his teacher and 2 teen-aged boys with an assault rifle, and wounded a girl. Loukaitas was sentenced to 2 mandatory life terms.
In St. Louis, Missouri, on February 29, 1996, Mark Boyd, 30, fired into a school bus when its doors opened, killed a 15-year-old pregnant girl and wounded the driver.
On July 26, 1996, Yohao Albert, a high-school junior, shot and wounded 2 classmates in a stairwell at his Los Angeles school.
On February 19, 1997, in Bethel, Alaska, Evan Ramsey, 16, shot and killed his high school principal Ron Edwards and one of his classmates, Josh Palacious. Two students were wounded. Ramsey was sentenced to 2 99-year terms. Authorities later accused 2 students of knowing the shootings were going to happen.
On October 1, 1997, in Pearl, Mississippi, Luke Woodham, 16, started shooting in his school cafeteria. He killed 2 students, including his ex-girlfriend, and wounded 7 others. He also killed his mother. Woodham was sentenced to life. Authorities later accused 6 friends of conspiracy.
On December 1, 1997, at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal, 14, found students coming out of a prayer meeting. Using a stolen pistol, he shot 8 of these students and killed 3. One of the wounded girls is paralyzed.
On December 15, 1997, in Stamps, Arkansas, Joseph Todd, 14, was arrested in the shooting of 2 students outside their high school. The students recovered from their wounds. Todd faces trial.
In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, on April 24, 1998, Andrew Wurst, 14, allegedly shot and killed his science teacher, John Gillette, at the JW Parker Middle School at an 8th grade dance. Two students and another teacher were wounded. Wurst is awaiting trial.
In Fayetteville, Tennessee, on May 19, 1998, several days before graduation, Jacob Davis, 18, allegedly shot and killed Robert Creson, a classmate at Lincoln County High School. Creson was dating Davis' ex-girlfriend. Davis, who was an honor student, awaits trial.
A CNN story, dated May 21, 1998, authored by its Justice Dept. correspondent, Pierre Thomas, offered the following statistics: "Ten percent of the nation's schools reported one or more violent crimes in the 1996-1997 school year, including murder, suicide, rape, robbery and fights involving weapons." Even if these Justice Dept. figures are self-serving and overblown, they point to a chilling landscape.
The availability of guns is a cause. No question.
The saturation of violence on TV is a cause. No question.
The breakup of families is a cause. No question. So is outright child abuse.
The compartmentalization of children from their parents is a cause.
The absence of a good education is a cause.
The growing poverty and its atmosphere of hopelessness in America is a cause.
The presence of lunatic ideologies (Nazism, Satanism) in the landscape is a factor.
You can't assign numbers to these causes. You can't say one of the above is a 23% cause or a 3% cause.
But is there another factor in pushing kids over the edge? Are some children, angry and desperate and in proximity to weapons, who are nevertheless quite able to maintain moral equilibrium, being jolted by chemicals which are scrambling their brains and intensifying their impulses and amplifying their dark thoughts?
The bulk of American media appears afraid to go after psychiatric drugs as a cause. This fear stems, in part, from the sure knowledge that expert attack dogs are waiting in the wings, funded by big-time pharmaceutical companies. There are doctors and researchers as well who have seen a dark truth about these drugs in the journals, but are afraid to stand up and speak out. After all, the medical culture punishes no one as severely as its own defectors, when defection from the party line threatens profits and careers and reputations, when defection alerts the public that deadly effects could be emanating from corporate boardrooms.
And what of the federal government itself? The FDA licenses every drug released for public use and certifies that it is safe and effective. If a real tornado started at the public level, if the mothers of the young killers and young victims began to see a terrible knowledge swim into view, a knowledge they hadn't imagined, and if THEY joined forces, the earth would shake.
After commenting on some of the adverse effects of the antidepressant drug Prozac, psychiatrist Peter Breggin notes, "From the initial studies, it was also apparent that a small percentage of Prozac patients became psychotic."
Prozac, in fact, endured a rocky road in the press for a time. Stories on it rarely appear now. The major media have backed off. But on February 7th, 1991, Amy Marcus' Wall Street Journal article on the drug carried the headline, "Murder Trials Introduce Prozac Defense." She wrote, "A spate of murder trials in which defendants claim they became violent when they took the antidepressant Prozac are imposing new problems for the drug's maker, Eli Lilly and Co."
Also on February 7, 1991, the New York Times ran a Prozac piece headlined, "Suicidal Behavior Tied Again to Drug: Does Antidepressant Prompt Violence?"
In his landmark book, Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Breggin mentions that the Donahue show (Feb. 28, 1991) "put together a group of individuals who had become compulsively self-destructive and murderous after taking Prozac and the clamorous telephone and audience response confirmed the problem."
Breggin also cites a troubling study from the February 1990 American Journal of Psychiatry (Teicher et al, v.147:207-210) which reports on "six depressed patients, previously free of recent suicidal ideation, who developed `intense, violent suicidal preoccupations after 2-7 weeks of fluoxetine [Prozac] treatment.' The suicidal preoccupations lasted from three days to three months after termination of the treatment. The report estimates that 3.5 percent of Prozac users were at risk. While denying the validity of the study, Dista Products, a division of Eli Lilly, put out a brochure for doctors dated August 31, 1990, stating that it was adding `suicidal ideation' to the adverse events section of its Prozac product information."
An earlier study, from the September 1989 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, by Joseph Lipiniski, Jr., indicates that in five examined cases people on Prozac developed what is called akathesia. Symptoms include intense anxiety, inability to sleep, the "jerking of extremities," and "bicycling in bed or just turning around and around." Breggin comments that akathesia "may also contribute to the drug's tendency to cause self-destructive or violent tendencies ... Akathesia can become the equivalent of biochemical torture and could possibly tip someone over the edge into self-destructive or violent behavior ... The June 1990 Health Newsletter, produced by the Public Citizen Research Group, reports, 'Akathesia, or symptoms of restlessness, constant pacing, and purposeless movements of the feet and legs, may occur in 10-25 percent of patients on Prozac.'"
The well-known publication, California Lawyer, in a December 1998 article called "Protecting Prozac," details some of the suspect maneuvers of Eli Lilly in its handling of suits against Prozac. California Lawyer also mentions other highly qualified critics of the drug: "David Healy, MD, an internationally renowned psychopharmacologist, has stated in sworn deposition that `contrary to Lilly's view, there is a plausible cause-and-effect relationship between Prozac' and suicidal-homicidal events. An epidemiological study published in 1995 by the British Medical Journal also links Prozac to increased suicide risk."
When pressed, proponents of these SSRI drugs sometimes say, "Well, the benefits for the general population far outweigh the risk," or, "Maybe in one or two tragic cases the dosage prescribed was too high." But the problem will not go away on that basis. A shocking review-study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases (1996, v.184, no.2), written by Rhoda L. Fisher and Seymour Fisher, called "Antidepressants for Children," concludes: "Despite unanimous literature of double-blind studies indicating that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos in treating depression in children and adolescents, such medications continue to be in wide use."
In wide use. This despite such contrary information and the negative, dangerous effects of these drugs.
There are other studies: "Emergence of self-destructive phenomena in children and adolescents during fluoxetine treatment," published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (1991, vol.30), written by RA King, RA Riddle, et al. It reports self-destructive phenomena in 14% (6/42) of children and adolescents (10-17 years old) who had treatment with fluoxetine (Prozac) for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
July, 1991. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Hisako Koizumi, MD, describes a thirteen-year-old boy who was on Prozac: "full of energy," "hyperactive," "clown-like." All this devolved into sudden violent actions which were "totally unlike him."
September, 1991. The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Author Laurence Jerome reports the case of a ten-year old who moves with his family to a new location. Becoming depressed, the boy is put on Prozac by a doctor. The boy is then "hyperactive, agitated ... irritable." He makes a "somewhat grandiose assessment of his own abilities." Then he calls a stranger on the phone and says he is going to kill him. The Prozac is stopped, and the symptoms disappear.
Recently I spoke with a psychologist at a major university about the possibility that Prozac could have provoked some of the school shootings. He said, "Well, in the case of Columbine High School, that couldn't have been the case. The boy had a whole plan there. Prozac is more of an impulse-causer." I said, "Suppose the plan was in the realm of a maybe-fantasy and then Prozac pushed the whole thing over the edge." After a pause he said, "Yes, that could be." As mentioned above, grandiose ideas can be generated by a person taking Prozac, and in the literature there is also mention of a "delusional system" being the outcome in a case of a patient on the drug.
A December 1, 1996, newswire story from Cox News Service, by Gary Kane, states, "Scores of young men and women across the country are learning that the Ritalin they took as teen-agers is stopping them from serving their country or starting a military career."
Kane continues, "All branches of the armed forces reject potential enlistees who use Ritalin or similar behavior-modifying medications ... And people who took Ritalin as teen-agers to treat ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], an inhibitor of academic skills, are rejected from military service, even if they no longer take the medication."
Was this the case with Eric Harris? Was he rejected by the Marines only because of the Luvox, or was Ritalin use, past or present, involved as well?
Ritalin, manufactured by Novartis, is the close cousin to speed which is given to perhaps two million American schoolchildren for a condition called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). ADD and ADHD, for which no organic causes have ever been found, are touted as disease-conditions that afflict the young, causing hyperactivity, unmanageability, and learning problems. Of course, when you name a disorder or a syndrome and yet can find no single provable organic cause for it, you have nothing more than a loose collection of behaviors with an arbitrary title.
Correction: you also have a pharmaceutical bonanza.
Dr. Breggin, referring to an official directory of psychiatric disorders, the DSM-III-R, writes that withdrawal from amphetamine-type drugs, including Ritalin, can cause "depression, anxiety, and irritability as well as sleep problems, fatigue, and agitation." Breggin then remarks, "The individual may become suicidal in response to the depression."
The well-known Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics reveals a strange fact. It states that Ritalin is "structurally related to amphetamines ... Its pharmacological properties are essentially the same as those of the amphetamines." In other words, the only clear difference is legality. And the effects, in layman's terms, are obvious. You take speed and after awhile, sooner or later, you start crashing. You become agitated, irritable, paranoid, delusional, aggressive.
A firm and objective medical review needs to be done in all of the school shootings, to determine how many of the shooters were on, or had at one time been on, Ritalin.
In Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Breggin discusses the subject of drug combinations: "Combining antidepressants [e.g., Prozac, Luvox] and psychostimulants [e.g., Ritalin] increases the risk of cardiovascular catastrophe, seizures, sedation, euphoria, and psychosis. Withdrawal from the combination can cause a severe reaction that includes confusion, emotional instability, agitation, and aggression." Children are frequently medicated with this combination, and when we highlight such effects as aggression, psychosis, and emotional instability, it is obvious that the result is pointing toward the very real possibility of violence.
In 1986, The International Journal of the Addictions published a most important literature review by Richard Scarnati. It was called "An Outline of Hazardous Side Effects of Ritalin (Methylphenidate") [v.21(7), pp. 837-841].
Scarnati listed over a hundred adverse affects of Ritalin and indexed published journal articles for each of these symptoms.
For every one of the following (selected and quoted verbatim) Ritalin effects then, there is at least one confirming source in the medical literature:
Paranoid delusions Paranoid psychosis Hypomanic and manic symptoms, amphetamine-like psychosis Activation of psychotic symptoms Toxic psychosis Visual hallucinations Auditory hallucinations Can surpass LSD in producing bizarre experiences Effects pathological thought processes Extreme withdrawal Terrified affect Started screaming Aggressiveness Insomnia Since Ritalin is considered an amphetamine-type drug, expect amphatamine-like effects psychic dependence High-abuse potential DEA Schedule II Drug Decreased REM sleep When used with antidepressants one may see dangerous reactions including hypertension, seizures and hypothermia Convulsions Brain damage may be seen with amphetamine abuse.
Many parents around the country have discovered that Ritalin has become a condition for their children continuing in school. There are even reports, by parents, of threats from social agencies: "If you don't allow us to prescribe Ritalin for your ADD child, we may decide that you are an unfit parent. We may decide to take your child away."
This mind-boggling state of affairs is fueled by teachers, principals, and school counselors, none of whom have medical training.
Yet the very definition of the "illnesses" for which Ritalin would be prescribed is in doubt, especially at the highest levels of the medical profession. This doubt, however, has not filtered down to most public schools.
In commenting on Dr. Lawrence Diller's book, Running on Ritalin, Dr. William Carey, Director of Behavioral Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has written, "Dr. Diller has correctly described ... the disturbing trend of blaming children's social, behavioral, and academic performance problems entirely on an unproven brain deficit..."
On November 16-18, 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health held the prestigious "NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD]." The conference was explicitly aimed at ending all debate about the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, and about the prescription of Ritalin. It was hoped that at the highest levels of medical research and bureaucracy, a clear position would be taken: this is what ADHD is, this is where it comes from, and these are the drugs it should be treated with. That didn't happen, amazingly. Instead, the official panel responsible for drawing conclusions from the conference threw cold water on the whole attempt to reach a comfortable consensus.
Panel member Mark Vonnegut, a Massachusetts pediatrician, said, "The diagnosis [of ADHD] is a mess."
The panel essentially said it was not sure ADHD was even a "valid" diagnosis. In other words, ADD and ADHD might be nothing more than attempts to categorize certain children's behaviors-with no organic cause, no clear-cut biological basis, no provable reason for even using the ADD or ADHD labels.
The panel found "no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction [which malfunction had been the whole psychiatric assumption]."
The panel found that Ritalin has not been shown to have long-term benefits. In fact, the panel stated that Ritalin has resulted in "little improvement on academic achievement or social skills."
Panel chairman, David Kupfer, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "There is no current validated diagnostic test [for ADHD]." Yet at every level of public education in America, there remains what can only be called a voracious desire to give children Ritalin (or other similar drugs) for ADD or ADHD.
Nullifying the warnings, assurances and prescriptions doctors routinely give to parents of children who have been diagnosed ADD or ADHD should be a national goal.
The following pronouncement makes a number of things clear: The 1994 Textbook of Psychiatry, published by the American Psychiatric Press, contains this review (Popper and Steingard)-"Stimulants [such as Ritalin] do not produce lasting improvements in aggressivity, conduct disorder, criminality, education achievement, job functioning, marital relationships, or long-term adjustment."
Parents should also wake up to the fact that, in the aftermath of the Littleton, Colorado, tragedy, pundits and doctors are urging more extensive "mental health" services for children. Fine, except whether you have noticed it or not, this no longer means, for the most part, therapy with a caring professional. It means drugs. It means the drugs I am discussing in this inquiry.
In December 1996, the US Drug Enforcement Agency held a conference on ADHD and Ritalin. Surprisingly, it issued a sensible statement about drugs being a bad substitute for the presence of caring parents: "[T]he use of stimulants [such as Ritalin] for the short-term improvement of behavior and underachievement may be thwarting efforts to address the children's real issues, both on an individual and societal level. The lack of long-term positive results with the use of stimulants and the specter of previous and potential stimulant abuse epidemics, give cause to worry about the future. The dramatic increase in the use of methylphenidate [Ritalin] in the 1990s should be viewed as a marker or warning to society about the problems children are having and how we view and address them."
The Brookhaven National Laboratory has studied Ritalin through PET scans. Lab researchers have found that the drug decreased the flow of blood to all parts of the brain by 20-30%.
That is of course a very negative finding. It is a signal of danger.
But parents, teachers, counselors, principals, school psychologists know nothing about this. Nor do they know that cocaine produces the same blood-flow effect.
In his book, Talking Back to Ritalin, Peter Breggin expands on the drug's effects: "Stimulants such as Ritalin and amphetamine ... have grossly harmful impacts on the brain-reducing overall blood flow, disturbing glucose metabolism, and possibly causing permanent shrinkage or atrophy of the brain."
In the wake of the Littleton shooting, we find that "the American people" and lawyers and pundits and child psychologists are pointing the finger at Hollywood, at video games like Doom, at inattentive parents, and at the availability of guns. We have to wonder why almost no one is calling out these drugs.
Is it possible that the work of PR people is shaping the national response?
An instructive article, "Protecting Prozac," by Michael Grinfeld, in the December 1998 California Lawyer, opens several doors. Grinfeld notes that "in the past year nearly a dozen cases involving Prozac have disappeared from the court record." He is talking about law suits against the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, and he is saying that these cases have apparently been settled, without trial, in such a quiet and final way, with such strict confidentiality, that it is almost as if they never happened.
This smoothness, this invisibility keeps the press away and also, most importantly, does not encourage other people to come out of the woodwork with lawyers and Prozac horror-stories of their own. Because they are not reading about $2 million or $10 million or $50 million settlements paid out by Lilly.
Grinfeld details a set of maneuvers involving attorney Paul Smith, who in the early 1990s became the lead plaintiffs' counsel in the famous Fentress case against Eli Lilly. The case made the accusation that Prozac had induced murder. This was the first action involving Prozac to reach a trial and jury, so it would establish a major precedent for a large number of other pending suits against the manufacturer.
After what many people thought was a very weak attack on Lilly by lawyer Smith, the jury came back in five hours with an easy verdict favoring Lilly and Prozac.
Grinfeld writes, "Lilly's defense attorneys predicted the verdict would be the death knell for [anti-]Prozac litigation."
But that wasn't the end of the Fentress case, even though Smith-to the surprise of many-didn't appeal it. "Rumors began to circulate that Smith had made several [prior] oral agreements with Lilly concerning the evidence that would be presented [in Fentress], the structure of a postverdict settlement, and the potential resolution of Smith's other [anti-Prozac] cases."
In other words, the rumors said: This lawyer made a deal with Lilly to present a weak attack, to omit evidence damaging to Prozac, so that the jury would find Lilly innocent of all charges. In return for this, the case would be settled secretly, with Lilly paying out monies to Smith's client. In this way, Lilly would avoid the exposure of a public settlement, and through the innocent verdict would discourage other potential plaintiffs from suing it over Prozac.
The rumors congealed. The judge in the Fentress case, John Potter, asked lawyers on both sides if "money had changed hands." He wanted to know if the fix was in. The lawyers said no money had been paid, "without acknowledging that an agreement was in place."
Judge Potter didn't stop there. In April 1995, Grinfeld notes, "In court papers, Potter wrote that he was surprised that the plaintiffs' attorneys [Smith] hadn't introduced evidence that Lilly had been charged criminally for failing to report deaths from another of its drugs to the Food and Drug Administration. Smith had fought hard [during the Fentress trial] to convince Potter to admit that evidence, and then unaccountably withheld it."
In Judge Potter's motion, he alleged that "Lilly [in the Fentress case] sought to buy not just the verdict, but the court's judgment as well."
In 1996, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued an opinion on all this: "... there was a serious lack of candor with the trial court [during Fentress] and there may have been deception, bad faith conduct, abuse of the judicial process or perhaps even fraud."
After the Supreme Court remanded the Fentress case back to the state attorney general's office, the whole matter dribbled away, and then resurfaced in a different form, in another venue. At the time of the California Lawyer article, a new action against Smith was unresolved.
If Lilly went to extreme lengths to control suits against Prozac, it stands to reason that drug companies could also try to deflect legal actions by influencing how the press, lawyers, and public view these school shootings. For example, accusing video games is acceptable, accusing guns is acceptable, accusing bad parents is acceptable. In fact, these causes, as I stated above, are legitimate. But when the national press is completely silent on medical drugs, we have to question the background on that. We have to. We have to ask, why should THIS horrendous factor be eliminated altogether from reporting to the nation?
The PBS television series, The Merrow Report, produced in 1996 a program called "Attention Deficit Disorder: A Dubious Diagnosis?" The Educational Writer's Association awarded the program first prize for investigative reporting in that year. I can recall no other piece of television journalism since the Vietnam war which has managed to capture on film government officials in the act of realizing that they have made serious mistakes.
John Merrow, the series' host, explains that, unknown to the public, there has been "a long-term, unpublicized financial relationship between the company that makes the most widely known ADD medication [Ritalin] and the nation's largest ADD support group."
The group is CHADD, based in Florida. CHADD stands for Children and Adults with ADD. Its 650 local chapters sponsor regional conferences and monthly meetings-often held at schools. It educates thousands of families about ADD and ADHD and gives out free medical advice. This advice features the drug Ritalin.
Since 1988, when CHADD and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), the manufacturer of Ritalin, began their financial relationship, Ciba has given almost a million dollars to CHADD, helping it to expand its membership from 800 to 35,000 people.
Merrow interviews several parents whose children are on Ritalin, parents who have been relying on CHADD for information. They are clearly taken aback when they learn that CHADD obtains a significant amount of its funding from the drug company that makes Ritalin.
CHADD has used Ciba money to promote its pharmaceutical message through a public service announcement produced for television. Nineteen million people have seen this PSA. As Merrow says, "CHADD's name is on it, but Ciba Geigy paid for it."
It turns out that in all of CHADD's considerable literature written for the public, there is rare mention of Ciba. In fact, the only instance of the connection Merrow could find on the record was a small-print citation on an announcement of a single CHADD conference.
In recounting CHADD's promotion of drug "therapy" for ADD, Merrow says, "CHADD's literature also says psychostimulant medications [like Ritalin] are not addictive."
Merrow brings this up to Gene Haslip, a Drug Enforcement Agency official in Washington. Haslip is visibly annoyed. "Well," he says, "I think that's very misleading. It's [Ritalin's] certainly a drug that can cause a very high degree of dependency, like all of the very potent stimulants."
Merrow reveals that CHADD received a $750,000 grant from the US Dept. of Education, in 1996, to produce a video, Facing the Challenge of ADD. The video doesn't just mention the generic name methylphenidate, it announces the drug by its brand name, Ritalin. This, at government (taxpayer) expense.
We see a press conference announcing the release of the video. The CHADD president presents an award to Dr. Thomas Hehir, Director of Special Education Programs at the US Dept. of Education.
This sets the stage for a conversation between Merrow and Dr. Hehir, providing a rare moment when discovery of the truth is recorded on camera, when PR is swept aside.
MERROW: "Are you aware that most of the people in the film [the video, Facing the Challenge of ADD-referring to people who are giving testimonials about how their ADD children have been helped by treatment] are not just members of CHADD ... but in the CHADD leadership, including the former national president? They're all board members of CHADD in Chicago. Are you aware of that? They're not identified in the film."
HEHIR: "I'm not aware of that."
MERROW: "Do you know about the financial connection between CHADD and Ciba Geigy, the company that makes Ritalin?"
HEHIR: "I do not."
MERROW: "In the last six years, CHADD has received $818,000 in grants from Ciba Geigy."
HEHIR: "I did not know that."
MERROW: "Does that strike you as a potential conflict of interest?"
HEHIR: "That strikes me as a potential conflict of interest. Yes it does."
MERROW: "Now, that's not disclosed either. Even though the film talks about Ritalin as a-one way, and it's the first way presented-of taking care of treating Attention Deficit Disorder. That's not disclosed either. Does that trouble you?"
HEHIR: "Um, it concerns me."
MERROW: "Are you going to look into this, when you go back to your office?"
HEHIR: "I certainly will look into some of the things you've brought up."
MERROW: "Should they have told you that all those people in that film are CHADD leadership? Should they have told you that CHADD gets twenty percent of its money from the people who make Ritalin?"
HEHIR: "I should have known that."
MERROW: "They should have told you."
This funded video, in which CHADD devotes all of twenty seconds to mentioning Ritalin's adverse effects, is no longer distributed by the US Department of Education.
CHADD has now told its members that it receives funding from Ciba. It says it will continue to take money from Ciba.
This is an example of how a corporation can, behind the scenes, bend and shape the way the public sees reality.
In the case of the school shootings, has an attempt been made to mold media response? To highlight various causes and omit others?
Real action is going to have to come from the public. Mothers in Littleton and Springfield and West Paducah and Jonesboro are going to have to ask the hard questions and become relentless about getting real answers. They are going to have to learn about these drugs. They'll have to learn which violent children in the school shootings were on these drugs. They are going to have to throw off robotic obedience to authorities in white coats. And they are going to have to join together.
If they do, many people will end up standing with them.
___________________________________ Some sources of information:
Dr. Peter Breggin, psychiatrist, author, former full-time consultant with the National Institute of Mental Health. www.breggin.com
ICSPP News. Phone: 301-652-5580 www.icspp.org
Dr. Joseph Tarantolo, psychiatrist, president of the Washington chapter of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. Phone: 301-652-5580
Jon Rappoport. Phone: 760-635-0735
The Merrow Report can be ordered by phone at 212-941-8060.
The ICSPP News publishes the following warning in bold letters: "Do Not Try to Abruptly Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs. When trying to withdraw from many psychiatric drugs, patients can develop serious and even life-threatening emotional and physical reactions... Therefore, withdrawal from psychiatric drugs should be done under clinical supervision..."
JON RAPPOPORT has worked as an investigative reporter for 15 years. He has written articles on politics, medicine, and health for Spin, Stern, Village Voice, In These Times, and a number of other newspapers and magazines in the United States and Europe. In 1982, the LA Weekly placed his name in nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, for his coverage of the military takeover at the University of El Salvador. Mr. Rappoport is the author of Oklahoma City Bombing, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, and AIDS INC., a widely praised critique of the original research behind HIV.
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