Reclaiming Our Children
a book by Peter R. Breggin
(our site's book review)
Peter R. Breggin, M.D., is one of the world’s best antidotes for capitalistic materialism run wild, spiritualism gone missing, and the shrinks and drug companies losing touch with reality. He has been called the conscience of American psychiatry, but could as well be called the conscience of America. He is a national hero that all would know about and honor except for one thing: special interests.
The interests referred to here are the drug companies, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and the entire medical industry known as biological psychiatry. These interests are powerful and scary and even dangerous, as they seem willing if not eager to throw out the baby with the bath water in their efforts to get psychiatric drugs into our citizens—especially our children—all “for their own good,” since so many of them are obviously “genetically or biochemically defective” if not outright “mentally ill.”
Big Pharma is eager to throw out the baby with the bath water
Breggin clearly demonstrates in this book that we aren’t actually a nation of crazies and defectives needing to be saturated in psychiatric pharmaceuticals, but a nation of people blindly sacrificing our children for our own materialistic desires, for convenience, and because of our own hang-ups which cause us to abuse our young in many different ways. And we must never forget: IN A FEW SHORT YEARS A NATION’S KIDS BECOME A NATION’S ADULTS.
Breggin clearly demonstrates in this book that we aren’t actually a nation of crazies and defectives needing to be saturated in psychiatric pharmaceuticals to fix our broken brains
The paradigm at work here is obviously the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm, with its tired, simplistic, reductionistic, win-lose perspective, its genetic determinism, its tread-worn approaches that see evils to be conquered rather than systems to be holistically addressed, and its lack of balance. There’s also a trace of religious fundamentalist fervor in evidence, as one gets a feeling that all those involved share an overt—or at least covert—belief that all children are born evil and need to be saved by religious indoctrination, pharmaceutical magic, electroshock, corporal punishment, harsh discipline, or years of shrinks in order to avoid the flames of Hell.
Children are born evil so they deserve harsh discipline, right? Wrong!
A very interesting convergence appears here. The Cultural War is fought between the Nurturing Parent (liberal) faction and the Strict Father (conservative) faction—as was shown in George Lakoff’s Moral Politics book, but these two factions seem equally well represented in the attitudes demonstrated by the special interests listed above. The latter faction—conservatives—believes in letting families and churches guide the young without undue interference from shrinks with drugs and therapy or any other group daring to usurp the functions of families—especially the functions of fathers in those families, but also believes that drug companies’ incredible powers/profits are merely free market capitalism’s rewards—Calvinistically bestowed upon each industry’s winners.
The former faction—liberals—believes in letting the therapeutically attuned welfare state mechanisms operate unfettered, but also in putting regulations all over the big corporations to attempt to keep them humanistic as well as capitalistic. Also, many conservatives share the fundamentalist fervor already cited, and many liberals believe that progressiveness dictates that you can never stop inventing new drugs and psychiatric interventions to “improve life quality” because the next idea just may lead us to utopia.
Anyway, it’s clear that materialism can not only create strange bedfellows but line many pockets in the process. Is there no limit to what both factions of the Culture War are willing to sacrifice in the name of greed, expediency, and convenience?
Why are we so ready to allow the powers that be in the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries take such drastic measures with not just our kids, but with ourselves as well? The NEA-backed teachers love it when the troublesome kids are drugged into docility. The parents love it when their troublesome kids take “good behavior” pills and quit bugging them. The cops love it when our more troubled youngsters get mentally lobotomized with pharmaceuticals because it makes the cops’ jobs easier.
The NEA has a choke-hold on American education that only the MC movement could alter
The shrinks love it when they have a tool (drugs) that can elicit “instant behavior changes” from patients that allows them to claim astronomical success rates. The drug companies love it when their profits and powers skyrocket as they find even more reasons why the U.S. citizen is somehow lacking unless he pops frequent pills.
The drug companies love it when their profits and powers skyrocket as they find even more reasons why the U.S. citizen is somehow lacking unless he pops frequent pills
The politicians love it when they can respond swiftly and “effectively” to negative national trends like school shootings and pose as national saviors of our young. (Sadly, Clinton and Gore did exactly that—with their spouses’ help—as they were nearing the end of their term in office as our country’s leaders. They championed drugging kids as a preventative. Say it ain't so, Bill!)
More pills for kids means more cash for Big Pharma
The most outrageous posture taken by the biological psychiatric industry is that the abuse and neglect and bad parenting aren’t very important. A century of scientific evidence that proved just how important this misparenting is has been cast aside by this industry in their fervor to dispense their wondrous potions to the masses to fix their deficient brains. Ritalin has been peddled as a happiness pill for not just kids but the families that cope with such “defective” members, in ads that look like updated Norman Rockwell paintings. Big Brother, 1984, and even starker and more scary visions come to mind as the drugging of America proceeds at a dizzying pace. Even the Communist Party’s drugging of Soviet nonconformists during the Cold War is recalled by this dark and dreary drug craze.
I just popped one of Big Pharma's magic pills . . . hey! Who am I? Where am I? I feel dizzy. I'm sleepy. Think I'll lie down now.
However, as suspicious as the frantic pace of the drugathon is, the antidrug forces have a large and daunting dilemma: What are they prepared to offer as an alternative? Granted, they have the century of proof that misparenting is where most of the problems lie. Granted, they’ve shown that the best of their Head Start, parent education, and other proactive preventatives help enormously and that the best parenting methods (authoritative democratic parenting) are superior to any other methods going. (Search for the word authoritative on this site—you'll see.) They’ve even shown that the best therapists can help the troubled kids get their acts together and usually with no need for drugs. But, encouraging as these facts are, they don’t alter the following realities:
- Americans are impatient; they prefer quick fixes to slow ones
- Americans like the convenience of drugs better than the inconvenience and ego blow of therapy
- Americans are suspicious of therapy and dislike the idea of “experts” tinkering with their lives
- Many therapists are incompetent or otherwise unprepared to effectively deal with the complex problems they’re confronted with
- Laypersons have little confidence in their ability to find effective therapists and only TV caricatures to consult to get an idea of what to expect, so they usually wait until problems are way out of control before consulting the therapists
- Most parenting books are weak or even outright wrong—the few good parenting books are outnumbered by the bad ones and the average person has not been educated about how to tell them apart
In other words, there is a huge problem with troubled minds in America (and most other countries too, of course, but that’s not relevant here) and the druggers are totally prepared to confront the problem head on—and now, and they have the tons of drugs ready to sell to allow doctors to “fix the defective brains” of American citizens—especially its young ones.
Big Pharma's Drugs will 'fix our defective brains'
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land
However, competent, affordable, antidrug therapists (e.g., Breggin) are too few, too hard to identify, too far to travel to, take too much of our precious time, and require too much work on the part of the patient and often his family as well. As a matter of fact, therapy from our more insightful therapists is functionally an indictment of our normal American childraising methods, and we Americans don’t like that. In fact we resent it and are embarrassed and humiliated by it. In essence, then, we would rather fill a prescription and pop a pill than go to someone who exposes the massive flaws in our family, including alcoholism, abuse, neglect, bad “ignorance-is-bliss” parenting, envy, hate, rejection, codependence, drug abuse, etc.
The fact that drugging our problems is usually the easy way out—a copout—is not widely understood by the layperson, and the drug corporations have jumped in to take advantage of this fact, with a menu of slick designer drugs to offer. After all, Americans have been exposed to thousands of ads that espouse the value that we need to use drugs anytime we wish to feel good or at least better than the lousy way we often feel, and although alcohol and nicotine used to be the star players in this game, the pharmaceutical giants are champing at the bit to usurp their reign (pardon the mixed metaphors).
Studies found no clinically significant improvements from antidepressant (e.g., Prozac) use, but cognitive therapy worked—see Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
Breggin understands these things and this book sounds the alarm with unmitigated enthusiasm. He wants us to raise our kids better, spend more quality time with them, and cease trying to use drugs to replace the love and understanding that is so needed but so lacking. The troubled kids represent a failure to properly nurture, and Ritalin and antidepressants do not exemplify the ideal remedy for “troubled” kids anymore than alcohol/ibuprofen/Valium/Prozac epitomize the ideal response to tension, stress, confusion, fear, and alienation in ostensibly mature adults. And he is, of course, correct in these analyses and prescriptions which he proffers with wisdom and compassion. (Incidentally, his comprehension and exposition of the school shooting trends of the 90s is unparalleled.)
U.S. school shooting trends
But there’s a problem with this book that cannot be overlooked and that is the lack of a viable plan to effect his curatives. Discerning what is needed is not synonymous with creating or even conceiving a plan to achieve the mass application of said remedies. (Happily, this is where the MC movement comes in.)
Every child that acts a bit too lively must be drugged immediately like a mad dog being put down. This is your child's brain. This is your child's brain on drugs (sssssszzzzz-sizzle-sizzle-pop). Any questions?
The drug-the-children faction can be considered deterministic and reactive in that they seem to accept the reality of the rampant dysfunctionality, and they plan to merely call it a function of defective brain chemistry (completely missing the fact that they’ve confused cause and effect, for many if not most cases) and douse it in pharmaceuticals until the troubled kids are no longer “troubling”—their brains are asleep. The nurture-the-children faction, on the other hand, can be considered humanistic and proactive in that they reject the necessity for diagnosing, labeling, and drugging troubled kids, since it has been shown consistently for decades that kids can be much more benignly helped with adequate nurturance before the fact than adequate nurturance plus therapy after the fact.
Kids have defective brain chemistry? Really? Or are they simply easy targets for exploitation?
Breggin bemoans the experts (criminal justice system, lawyers, shrinks, physicians) assuming responsibility for our kids once they experience trouble, disempowering parents, teachers, and other caretakers in the process. He sees the vital importance of nurturing in such a way that kids get what they need, not what’s convenient for us to throw their way. (This is an essential MC movement concept.) He wants us to drop this silly notion that a large segment of our kids are simply brain defectives needing fixing with drugstore snake oils. Instead, we must see that we adults are often failing our kids and they are desperately symptomizing these failures, so we must fix ourselves. Several of the school shootings were done by kids already taking the very same drugs the drug-the-children faction wishes to see poured down the gullets of millions of our kids ASAP.
Your local drugstore snake oil salesman
We need to make a better society for our kids that is more child-centered. Breggin has seen countless kids’ troubles evaporate once their parents’ parenting approach is revamped. He has also seen many exceptionally insightful kids—and many harmless nonconformists who show a bit too much enthusiasm or creativity—get diagnosed, labeled, stigmatized for life, and forcefully drugged by shrinks and parents working as a team to stifle critical intelligence, diversity and creativity simply because they don’t understand it. This situation describes a growing number of American schools, says Breggin.
Breggin knows of a couple of existing schools that actually encourage individuality and creativity
The author goes on to describe a couple of existing schools that actually encourage individuality and creativity and holds them up as models to be emulated. He also describes how families need to inspire in this way. And he champions resource enhancement for too-small families such as single-parent families and others. They need to find other such families and pool information, share some activities, help each other with child care. And he champions mentoring programs. His parenting advice is mostly good, but his suggestions in the sections on time-outs, punishment, and intervention by parents into kids’ squabbles is not to be taken too seriously. He’s a therapy expert, but apparently not a parenting expert.
Breggin tells us that there have been various programs that have proven that even many of the more serious forms of mental illness are treatable by drugless therapy methods but the drug-happy psychiatric establishment wasted no time in shutting them down.
The author sees the answer to stopping the chemical suppression of children in “movement” terms, wherein a great number of people start parenting correctly, rejecting the drugging of their kids in schools, reprioritizing so their kids aren’t at the bottom of their list, and standing with other parents for children’s rights and against bureaucracies’ attempts to drug their kids into docile conformity.
This is a must-read book for all those who wish to understand the perspectives of both the biological psychiatrists and the humanistic psychiatrists, especially if said readers will be in a position to affect the fate of children, policy, or current thinking.
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