An interesting, and telling, tale: As part of a recent speaking engagement sponsored by a regional medical center in the West, I was scheduled to address local pediatricians. Two weeks before my scheduled speech, my contact informed me that the medical center’s behavioral health unit had put up such a fuss that the center had decided to cancel it.
“Apparently,” she said, “your views on ADHD and other childhood behavior disorders are fairly controversial.”
That’s true. But I contend that my views on these subjects reflect the facts, which I further contend are being withheld from both the public and children’s health care providers — withheld by individuals and groups that have a vested economic interest in those facts not being exposed. Those facts include that ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and bipolar disorder of childhood are not realities; rather, they are constructs.
If a physician tells a patient that he has a tumor growing in his left lung, that can be verified through body scans, biopsies and other medical means. The same cannot be done with these behavior disorders. A therapist who diagnoses ADHD cannot provide any evidence that the child “has” anything. The child’s behavior is unquestionably problematic, but that is all that can be factually ascertained.
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Therapists who make such diagnoses often tell parents that ADHD, etc., are genetically transmitted. Has the gene or genes been conclusively identified? No. Do these therapists order genetic testing before making such claims? No. Does the genetic hypothesis make sense? Not according to reliable reports from now-retired educators, who say these fantasy genes didn’t exist in pre-1960s school-age populations. The begging question, therefore: Where did these genes come from?
These same therapists explain ADHD, etc., in terms of something they call a “biochemical imbalance.” Has this imbalance ever been quantified? No. Can it be quantified? No, because there is no such thing as “biochemical balance.” As a leading psychiatrist has admitted, the term is “nothing but a useful metaphor.”
In other words, the biochemical imbalance explanation is not truthful; but it is useful. It is useful in persuading parents to give their children drugs that have not reliably outperformed placebos but, unlike placebos, contain real potential of dangerous side effects.
Not agreeing with me is one thing. Not wanting my views to be heard is quite another (but a sign of the times). The demand by the hospital’s behavioral health division that my talk be canceled was intellectually dishonest, but it’s about what I expect from people who don’t have a scientific leg to stand on.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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