1,300 Child & Adolescent Deaths Per Year Needs Urgent Federal Response


The American Heart Association this week recommended that doctors conduct a physical exam and an electrocardiogram before prescribing children stimulant drugs like Ritalin that could cause cardiac arrest.  It also recommended a “Sudden Cardiac Death/Arrest registry in children” be established.  But the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a group that has been investigating and exposing the potentially deadly effects of stimulants and other psychiatric drugs for nearly 40 years, says a federal registry is needed for all pediatric deaths linked to prescribed psychotropic drug use.


The Food and Drug Administration found 19 sudden deaths in children on stimulant drugs while another 24 died of heart-related problems over a period of five years.  However, doctors only report 1 to 10 percent of adverse reactions to the FDA.  In analyzing the FDA’s Adverse Drug Reaction database for all psychiatric drugs (stimulants, antipsychotics, antidepressants, sedatives), CCHR estimates that the combined total of child deaths each year is more than 1,300.  Stimulants are prescribed for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” which many medical experts say is not a legitimate disease but an excuse to chemically control boisterous childhood behavior.  There are no blood or urine tests, brain scans or X-rays that can diagnose ADHD.   


CCHR President Ms. Jan Eastgate said, “The pharmaceutical-psychiatric conflicts of interests that make stimulant prescriptions and sales a $3 billion a year industry in the US should be overridden for the safety of children.  All psychiatric drugs—the sales of which have soared to $28 billion a year—have serious risks.  A federal registry should record the death of every child and adolescent who dies from physical complications—heart attacks, strokes, sudden death, respiratory failure and suicide—while taking a prescribed psychiatric drug.  Much stronger drug information warnings are also needed if we are ever going to prevent future deaths.”


Eastgate said the first Ritalin death reported to CCHR was in 1986 when 13-year-old Samuel Grossman from Travis County, Texas, died from a heart attack while taking the drug.  An autopsy found an enlarged heart caused by long-term stimulant use.  At the time, Guenter Lewandowski, a spokesman for Ritalin’s manufacturer, ignored the evidence and stated, “We see no connection between Ritalin intake and the mention of deaths.”


In March 2000, Matthew Smith, 14, of Michigan, was skateboarding when he suffered a heart attack and died.  He’d been taking Ritalin since he was 7 years old. The coroner determined that Matthew’s heart showed clear signs of the small blood vessel damage that stimulant drugs and amphetamines cause.  Then, psychiatrists told the media that the death was unrelated to Ritalin. 


It was another six years before parents were told the truth. Health Canada acted first when in May 2006 it issued a public advisory caution that stimulant drugs could increase heart rate and blood pressure that could result in “cardiac arrests, strokes or sudden deaths.”  The FDA limped behind for three months, waiting until August before issuing a similar warning.


Eastgate says that drugging children, even infants as young as one, has become psychiatry’s cash cow and is placing more and more children at risk.  Increasing prescription rates should be a warning bell, she said, for federal action and a registry to monitor deaths related to psychiatric drugs.   IMS Health found that between 1995 and 1999 stimulant drug use rose 23 percent; the use of Prozac-like drugs for the 7-12 age group was up 151 percent; for kids 6 and under it soared 580 percent.  For children under 18, the use of mood stabilizers other than lithium increased 4,000 percent and the use of new antipsychotic drugs rose nearly 300 percent. From 2001 to 2005, the use of antipsychotic drugs in children and teens grew another 73 percent and today, 2.5 million American children are prescribed the drugs that can cause life-threatening diabetes, while 1.5 million children are prescribed antidepressants that can drive them to suicide.  


“Sudden death and cardiac arrest due to stimulants are just the tip of the iceberg.  We need more effective monitoring of psychotropic drug-related deaths if we are going to save children’s lives,” Eastgate said.


CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and eminent New York psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.  The author of more than 30 books on psychiatry, Dr. Szasz says there are “catastrophic consequences of child psychiatry, such as the psychopathologizing of child misbehavior and the mass poisoning of ‘hyperactive’ children with Ritalin and other neuroleptic drugs.”  


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