Big Pharma and ADHD, Did We Forget?

Big Pharma and ADHD, Did We Forget?

Once upon time, Americans were leery of pharmaceutical companies. That time was two years ago. It’s gone now. A large portion of the country will now blindly abide by what pharmaceutical companies, the political establishment, and schools say. Irrespective of the current crisis, the future seems bleak. The nation is divided when it comes to the current holy trinity of Big Pharma, government, and schools. It’s hard to believe that the citizens of this nation were united against this pillaging triumvirate two years ago — it’s unbelievable that we were united against anything. We were aware of the evil that they had wrought, but that memory along with other memories about freedoms, rights, and abuses by the ruling class, have been washed from most Americans' minds. This is an attempt to restore some of those memories.

The 1990s were simpler times. During those halcyon days, the Triumvirate were much more subtle in their oppression. This is not to say they were light on the oppression, they just weren’t as brazen. They were afraid of the public. They had a healthy fear of the people. Now, government and school officials laugh in your face if you question any of their policy positions, and the cost and consequences of said positions.

John Merrow was an educational journalist and he led the fight against the pharmaceutical companies, government, and schools in the 1990s. He was a progressive hero two years ago, now it’s best that they do not acknowledge that he exists, nor he acknowledge that he exists. Just in case ex post facto inquisition rules do not apply and the mob arrives at his door for daring to question our pharmaceutical saviors in the past, he spends his time these days writing about his white privilege in the Martha’s Vineyard Times, as if someone is going to find his Big Pharma blackface. If his name were ever to surface again, and his several decades of fighting for kids against the pharmaceutical companies were to be revealed, then history would have to be rewritten. He would be a villain for challenging the scientific consensus. Who was he to stand up for kids? He was not a doctor or a scientist. He did not work for the CDC nor was he an educator. Today, he would need to be canceled, and tomorrow, anyone like him will be.

Do you know why very few people take Ritalin anymore? John Merrow exposed the corruption. Big Pharma, the government, and schools were lying to parents and were doping up their kids. Why would they poison kids? To make money. It was all exposed and revealed. We knew this and forgot it, so they did it again with Adderall 10 years later, but were much more smooth that time. It was the same game, and they won the second time. According to, Amphetamines, Adderall, and Ritalin have been the most widely used prescription among students over the last decade. So what game are they playing this time? Forcing an experimental medical therapy — that’s only purpose is to limit extreme outcomes — on children that are not susceptible to extreme outcomes. If this is now, then what’s next?

It would serve us well to remember Merrow’s story, as Americans and as educators. It is hard to lift the spell that many Americans are under. Most have been lost, but the spell can be lifted from others by jogging their memory, and reminding them that we messed up by believing that the Triumvirate had our interests in mind and not their own. Perhaps, we might be messing up again. If any of the three parts will break from the Triumvirate like Pompey, then it will be the schools by way of educators. The miracle drugs worked out well for Big Pharma’s balance sheet, but what did the educators get? We were promised calm classrooms and model behavior out of a Prussian education brochure. That did not happen. If we can remember that we were misled, then we can push our story into the American mainstream narrative. This may be the only hope for these kids and Merrow’s reporting could be key in waking educators up.

The first lesson that teachers — and Americans — need to remember is something that we have always known but frequently and conveniently forget, and that lesson is: we’re lazy. Americans are lazy. We desire quick fixes and shortcuts. We do not want to do the hard work. This may not have been the case 70 years ago or even 50 years ago, but it has been for the last 30 years.

Take for example our current crisis. A viral pandemic threatens the lives of individuals with unhealthy behaviors and the elderly. The solution is easy, but it’s not easy to implement. American’s need to be healthier and stop shoving processed foods, sugars, and industrial seed oils down their throats. It’s hard breaking a habit, but that change would save millions of lives, not to mention the social and economic catastrophe that could be prevented by being healthy and by avoiding lockdowns. That’s not what happened. We’re too lazy, we don’t want to put in the work. As always, we chose the miracle drug.

In the 1990s students were struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD today, surely we will add more letters and possibly characters like plus or ampersand in the future), and rather than find the true source of the behavior and put in the work to fix the problem, we did what we always do, we turned to the miracle drug. ADD was labeled a medical problem. It wasn’t the school’s fault or the parents’ fault. This allowed the school and parents to join forces and dismiss blame, and also not have to do anything to fix the problem. For the Millenials and Zoomers too young to remember this, imagine the “spiderman finger pointing” meme followed by the “two muscle arms united together in solidarity” meme. Who convinced the parents and school that it wasn’t their fault? Why it was the good ole’ pharmaceutical companies (along with a front group) who just so happened to be selling the cure.

Merrow reported in the New York Times that Ciba-Geigy, the maker of Ritalin, secretly funded CHADD (Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder) to the tune of almost $1 million. With CHADD beholden to Big Pharma, of course they would push the prescription drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) as the solution. This supposedly neutral non-profit lobbied the Department of Education (who put together a PSA promoting the drug) and Congress to relax drug regulations for this amphetamine (not too different from cocaine) and to get ADD officially recognized as a disability. They also lobbied teachers, who then recommended Ritalin as a solution to parents desperate to help their children.

The Dept. of Education’s ADD PSA was created in conjunction with CHADD. It comes as no surprise that it is not a public service announcement but rather a Ciba-Geigy commercial at best (they mention the brand name, Ritalin, rather than simply mentioning the drug’s name methylphenidate) and at worst, it is flat out propaganda. The “real” parents in the PSA are top-ranking members of CHADD and the central parent in the story is the President of CHADD, but none of this is mentioned. The propaganda pretends that they’re just normal parents, not members of a group funded by a pharmaceutical company sub rosa. It should also come as no surprise that the incompetent Dept. of Education had no idea that the parents featured in the video were CHADD members and were unaware that Ciba-Geigy had been funding CHADD.

Doctors said, “It was safer than aspirin,” (Merrow 2017) and assured us it was not addictive. "It works, plain and simple," says the CHADD’s PHD co-founder. “If your child had an ear infection you would take an antibiotic for the ear infection and if your child has attention deficit and we have a medication for it, you should have the same attitude about it essence,” say the doctor prescribed 80% of patients with Ritalin. Does any of this sound familiar? In essence, this is how we later got the opioid epidemic. Just as American doctors over prescribed opioids to patients in comparison to the rest of the world, doctors prescribed five times more speed (Ritalin) than the rest of the world in the 1990s (that’s not five times more than the next largest supplier, that’s five times more than all nations combined). Remember it was given mainly to children, and still is. Merrow points out in his book, Addicted to Reform (2017), that the New York Times reported in 2013 that 6.4 million children had been diagnosed with the disability ADD, a 50% increase over the previous decade.

Big Pharma does not care about your kids. They were slinging Ritalin to kids and assuring America that it was safe, while telling the FDA they did not have any data on the safety and long term efficacy of Ritalin (does that sound familiar?) They’re a business and that’s fine in a free market, but we do not have a free market. It’s best we remember the unholy alliance between government and corporations that run this plutocracy. We need to hold ourselves accountable for letting things get to this. It’s beyond time for us to stand up and say, “No. I do not believe you, and you have to prove it to me, not the other way around.”

We must also hold doctors accountable. We must treat them with the same healthy disdain that we should have for our government and corrupt corporations (there is nothing wrong with profits, but there is a lot wrong with those that bend the law for personal gain). Our doctors have been wrong too many times over the last three decades. We must say to them, “No. I do not believe you, and you have to prove it to me. You’ve been wrong before.” Maybe your kid was not destroyed by the Ritalin or Adderall that American doctors assured us were safe, but it’s very likely that you have lost someone due to the opioids these same doctors assured us were safe. What else are they wrong about? At least we held the banks accountable for the economic collapse in 2008, although it was likely the government that caused and facilitated most of the harm during this episode, regardless of our often erroneous understanding of this epoch, we had the courage to hold the financial institutions accountable for five seconds before we gave up. Doctors have never had to own the ADHD prescription drug epidemic or the opioid epidemic. They didn’t ask enough questions and lives were ruined. Are they asking questions now? Will they ask questions tomorrow?

A healthy dose of skepticism would do us well. While the corporate media and the partisan sycophants on their team attempt to paint this as a naughty word, skepticism is our only hope. It’s the motto of the Royal Society. The enlightened thinkers in the 17th century that paved the way for the freedom and science of today, lived by this creed, “Nullius in Verba” — take nobody's word for it.


Merrow, John, Addicted to Reform (2017)

Merrow, John

Merrow, John, Learning Matters: ADD -- A Dubious Diagnosis (1995)

Phillips, Christine B., Medicine Goes to School: Teachers as Sickness Brokers for ADHD (2006)