ADHD Study is Misleading, Charges Watchdog Group


Stimulant Side Effects, Not “ADHD”, May Be to Blame for Slow Brain Development

LOS ANGELES:  A Nov 16 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on delayed brain development in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is misleading, claims a psychiatric watchdog group.

Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), examining a series of brain images of more than 400 children (half of them “ADHD”), concluded that some regions of the brain of children with ADHD matured several years later than normal. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) says the researchers underplayed the fact that 66% of the ADHD subjects studied had been on powerful stimulants (as reported in the study), warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cause suppression of growth—which could logically include brain development. With stimulant “treatment” the only physical variable, and ADHD never validated as a real disease, it is likely that the stimulant drugs, not ADHD, are to blame for the slow brain maturation reported by study authors Philip Shaw, et al.

Earlier researchers have also ignored the probable connection between the drugs and problems with brain size and growth. At a 1998 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference on ADHD, 14 MRI studies of people treated for ADHD were reviewed. The presenters reported on-average 10% brain atrophy (shrinkage) in ADHD subjects—however, pediatric neurologist Dr. Fred Baughman pointed out that the vast majority of the ADHD subjects had been treated long-term with stimulants—the only physical difference from the control group—suggesting that it was the drugs, not the so-called disorder, that was causing the brain atrophy. In the end, the NIH Panel concluded: “…there are no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.”

In fact, researchers have repeatedly failed to prove any physical abnormality that can validate the existence of ADHD. In 2003, Jonathan Leo, Professor of Anatomy at the Western University of Health Sciences and Professor David Cohen of the School of Social Work at Florida International University, reviewed 33 brain-imaging studies of ADHD-diagnosed subjects. They confirmed that every study concerned medicated children, a major variable because stimulant drugs “cause very persistent changes in the brain.” They also reviewed a widely touted 2002 NIMH study that included unmedicated subjects and claimed that unmedicated ADHD children had significantly smaller brains. However, the comparison group was two years older and taller, so naturally the smaller children had smaller brains.

In 2000, a study published in The Lancet claimed ADHD was linked to an over-production of dopamine. This was passed off as “fact”, even though the study involved only six adult subjects diagnosed with ADHD—all of whom were most likely to have been on long-term drug treatment, particularly stimulants. Critical details as to precisely what drugs they had been on or for how long were not provided, but the authors stated that one month before the brain scanning commenced, the subjects were taken off any drug that may affect the dopamine system. Stimulant drugs administered for ADHD affect the dopamine system. Based on this alone, the scanning differences found between the ADHD subjects and the normal subjects were likely to have been caused by drug treatment.

Despite all the research done in an attempt to prove otherwise, there remain no physical tests that can validate the existence of ADHD.  Even the American Psychiatric Association admits in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition IV, that there are “…no laboratory tests that have been established as diagnostic” for ADHD.  Instead, the diagnosis is entirely subjective—based on a checklist of “symptoms” that sound a lot like normal childhood behavior: “Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair,” “Difficulty engaging in activities quietly” and “Acts as if driven by a motor.” Even with this lack of scientific basis for the so-called disorder, vested interests such as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), which received more than $1 million in pharmaceutical funding in 2004-2005 alone, aggressively promote ADHD and the drugs used to “treat” it. Now, as many as 10% of children are alleged to have ADHD—many of whom are prescribed cocaine-like stimulants.

In addition to suppressed growth, the FDA warns that the drugs can cause psychosis, aggression, heart attack, stroke and sudden death.  Many parents, however, remain unaware of the risks of ADHD stimulants and other prescribed psychotropic drugs. To increase public awareness of the dangers of these drugs, CCHR has launched a new phase in its “Fight For Kids” campaign, with the slogan, “Get the Facts. Fight Back.” Their first Public Service Announcement series warns of the suicide and violence inducing side effects of antidepressants, prescribed to millions of children, and has already been translated into 15 languages. The group says it will be releasing additional PSA series on dangerous psychiatric “treatments” for children.

To view the first series of PSAs, go to 

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.