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Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Youth In Revolt: The Plague Of State-Sponsored Violence

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Oldspeak:The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race and ethnicity have been abandoned as American society’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism and state terrorism.” In a state where children are disposable, subjected to violence and threats of violence in most every aspect of their lives, programmed from birth to be nothing more than finely tuned profit generating”happiness machines”. Where 1o children a day are killed by guns (more than police killed in the line of duty) can we really be surprised by the senseless violence perpetrated on children like Trayvon Martin?

By Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

Young people are demonstrating all over the world against a variety of issues ranging from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in education and public services. At the moment, these demonstrations are being met with state-sanctioned violence and insults in the mainstream media rather than with informed dialogue, critical engagement and reformed policies. In the United States, the state monopoly on the use of violence has intensified since the 1980s and, in the process, has been increasingly directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and increasingly women. As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and disposability. Collective insurance policies and social protections have given way to the forces of economic deregulation, the transformation of the welfare state into punitive workfare programs, the privatization of public goods and an appeal to individual responsibility as a substitute for civic responsibility. Under the notion that unregulated market-driven values and relations should shape every domain of human life, the business model of governance has eviscerated any viable notion of social responsibility while furthering the criminalization of social problems and cut backs in basic social services, especially for the poor, young people and the elderly.(1) Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in and breakdown of institutions and public spheres, which have provided the minimal conditions for democracy.

As young people make diverse claims on the promise of a radical democracy, articulating what a fair and just world might be, they are increasingly met with forms of physical, ideological and structural violence. According to OccupyArrests.com, “There have been at least 6705 arrests in over 112 different cities as of March 6, 2012.”(2) Abandoned by the existing political system, young people in Oakland, California; New York City; and numerous other cities are placing their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully while trying to produce a new language, politics, long-term institutions and “community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles.”(3) This movement is not simply about reclaiming space, but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation and introducing a new political language. Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for an end to the corporate control of the commanding institutions of politics and culture, poverty, the suppression of dissent and the permanent war state. Richard Lichtman is right in insisting that this movement should be praised for its embrace of communal democracy as well as an emerging set of shared concerns, principles and values articulated “by a demand for equality, or, at the very least, for a significant lessening of the horrid extent of inequality; for a working democracy; for the elimination of the moneyed foundation of politics; for the abolition of political domination by a dehumanized plutocracy; for the replacement of ubiquitous commodification by the reciprocal recognition of humanity in the actions of its agents.”(4) As Arundhati Roy points out, what connects the protests in the United States to resistance movements all over the globe is that young people are realizing that “they know that their being excluded from the obscene amassing of wealth of US corporations is part of the same system of the exclusion and war that is being waged by these corporations in places like India, Africa and the Middle East.”(5) Of course, Lichtman, Roy, and others believe that this is just the beginning of a movement and that much needs to be done, as Staughton Lynd argues, to build new strategies, a vast network of new institutions and public spheres, a community of trust and political organization that invites poor people into its ranks.(6)

All of these issues are important, but what must be addressed in the most immediate sense is the threat the emerging police state in the United States poses not to just the young protesters occupying a number of American cities, but also the threat it poses to democracy itself as a result of the merging of a war-like mentality and neoliberal mode of discipline and education in which it becomes difficult to reclaim the language of obligation, social responsibility and civic engagement. Unless the actions of young protesters, however diverse they may be, is understood within the language of a robust notion of the social, civic courage and the imperatives of a vital democracy, it will be difficult for the American public to resist state violence and the framing of protests, dissent and civic responsibility as un-American or, at worst, a species of criminal behavior.

While there is considerable coverage in the progressive media given to the violence being waged against the Occupy movement protesters, I want to build on these analyses by arguing that it is important to situate such violence within a broader set of categories that enables a critical understanding of not only the underlying social, economic and political forces at work in such assaults, but also allows us to reflect critically on the distinctiveness of the current historical period in which they are taking place. For example, it is difficult to address such state-sponsored violence against young people without analyzing the devolution of the social state and the corresponding rise of the warfare and punishing state. The notion of historical conjuncture is important here because it provides both an opening into the forces shaping a particular historical moment and it allows for a merging of theory and strategy. That is, it helps us to address theoretically how youth protests are largely related to a historically specific neoliberal project that promotes vast inequalities in income and wealth, creates the student loan debt bomb, eliminates much needed social programs, eviscerates the social wage and privileges profits and commodities over people. Within the United States, the often violent response to nonviolent forms of youth protests must also be analyzed within the framework of a mammoth military-industrial state and its commitment to war and the militarization of the entire society. As Tony Judt put it, “The United States is becoming not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness and war, or planning is the exemplary (and only) common project.”(7) The merging of the military-industrial complex and unbridled corporate power points to the need for strategies that address what is specific about the current warfare state and the neoliberal project and how different interests, modes of power, social relations, public pedagogies and economic configurations come together to shape its politics. Such a conjuncture is invaluable politically in that it provides a theoretical opening for making the practices of the warfare state and the neoliberal revolution visible in order “to give the resistance to its onward march, content, focus and a cutting edge.”(8) It also points to the conceptual power of making clear that history remains an open horizon that cannot be dismissed through appeals to the end of history or end of ideology.(9) It is precisely through the indeterminate nature of history that resistance becomes possible and politics refuses any guarantees and remains open. Following Stuart Hall, I want to argue that the current historical moment or what he calls the “long march of the Neoliberal Revolution,”(10) has to be understood in terms of the growing forms of violence that it deploys and reinforces. Such anti-democratic pressures and their relationship to the rising protests of young people in the United States and abroad are evident in the crisis that has emerged through the merging of governance and violence, the growth of the punishing state and the persistent development of what has been described by Alex Honneth as “a failed sociality.”(11)

The United States has become addicted to violence and this dependency is fuelled increasingly by its willingness to wage war at home and abroad. War in this instance is not merely the outgrowth of polices designed to protect the security and well-being of the United States. It is also, as C. Wright Mills pointed out, part of a “military metaphysics”(12) – a complex of forces that includes corporations, defense industries, politicians, financial institutions and universities. War provides jobs, profits, political payoffs, research funds and forms of political and economic power that reach into every aspect of society. War is also one of the nation’s most honored virtues, and its militaristic values now bear down on almost every aspect of American life.(13) As war becomes a mode of sovereignty and rule, it erodes the distinction between war and peace. Increasingly fed by a moral and political hysteria, warlike values produce and endorse shared fears as the primary register of social relations.

Shared fears and the media hysteria that feed them produce more than a culture of fear. Such hysteria also feeds the growing militarization of the police, who increasingly use their high-tech scanners, surveillance cameras and toxic chemicals on anyone who engages in peaceful protests against the warfare and corporate state. Images abound in the mainstream media of such abuses. There is the now famous image of an 84-year-old woman looking straight into a camera, her face drenched in a liquid spray used by the police after attending a protest rally. There is the image of a woman, who is two months pregnant, being carried to safety after being pepper sprayed by the police. There are the all-too-familiar images of young people being dragged by their hair across a street to a waiting police van.(14) In some cases, protesters have been seriously hurt as in the case of Scott Olsen, an Iraqi war veteran, who was critically injured in a protest in Oakland in October 2011. Too much of this violence is reminiscent of the violence used against civil rights demonstrators by the forces of Jim Crow in the fifties and sixties.(15)

The war on terror has become a war on democracy as baton-wielding cops are now being supplied with the latest military equipment imported straight from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Military technologies once used exclusively on the battlefield are now being supplied to police departments across the nation. Drones; machine-gun-equipped armored trucks; SWAT vehicles; “digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers used in foreign wars.”(16) The domestic war against “terrorists” (code for young protesters) provides new opportunities for major defense contractors and corporations who “are becoming more a part of our domestic lives.”(17) As Glenn Greenwald points out, the United States since 9/11 “has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons.”(18) Of course, the new domestic para-military forces will also undermine free speech and dissent with the threat of force while simultaneously threatening core civil liberties, rights and civic responsibilities. Given that “by age 23, almost a third of Americans are arrested for a crime,” it becomes clear that in the new militarized state the view of young people as predators, a threat to corporate governance and disposable will increase as will the growth of a punishment state that acts with impunity.(19)

No longer restricted to a particular military ideology, the celebration of war-like values has become normalized through the militarization of the entire society. As Michael Geyer points out, militarization in this sense is defined as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.”(20) The conceptual merging of war and violence is evident in the way in which the language of war saturates the ways in which policy makers talk about waging war on drugs, poverty and the underclass. There is more at work here than the prevalence of armed knowledge and a militarized discourse; there is also the emergence of a militarized society in which “the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks.”(21) But the prevailing move in American society to a permanent war status does more than promote a set of unifying symbols that embrace a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, promoting conformity over dissent, the strong over the weak and fear over responsibility; it also gives rise to a “failed sociality” in which violence becomes the most important element of power and mediating force in shaping social relationships.

As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence. Such legitimation is largely provided through a market-driven culture addicted to the production consumerism, militarism and organized violence, largely circulated through various registers of popular culture that extend from high fashion and Hollywood movies to the creation of violent video games and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon. The market-driven spectacle of war demands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals and a largely passive republic of consumers. But it also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in the spectacle of violence.

As the pleasure principle is unconstrained by a moral compass based on a respect for others, it is increasingly shaped by the need for intense excitement and a never-ending flood of heightened sensations. What has led to this immunity and insensitivity to cruelty and prurient images of violence? Part of this process is due to the fact that the American public is bombarded by an unprecedented “huge volume of exposure to … images of human suffering.”(22) As Zygmunt Bauman argues, there are social costs that come with this immersion of a culture of staged violence. One consequence is that “the sheer numbers and monotony of images may have a ‘wearing off’ impact [and] to stave off the ‘viewing fatigue,’ they must be increasingly gory, shocking and otherwise ‘inventive’ to arouse any sentiments at all or indeed draw attention. The level of ‘familiar’ violence, below which the cruelty of cruel acts escapes attention, is constantly rising.”(23)

Hyper-violence and spectacular representations of cruelty disrupt and block our ability to respond politically and ethically to the violence as it is actually happening on the ground. In this instance, unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death become banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized relegated to the realm of the unnoticed and unnoticeable. How else to explain the public indifference to the violence waged by the state against nonviolent youthful protesters, who are rebelling against a society in which they have been excluded from any claim on hope, prosperity and democracy. As an increasing volume of violence is pumped into the culture, yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching violence loses its shock value. As the need for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grows while matters of cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other outlets for seeking pleasure.

Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of violence has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified since the Reagan presidency, when a shift in government policies first took place, and set the stage for the emergence of unchecked torture and state violence under the Bush-Cheney regime. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery and eliminating all viable public spheres – whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good. State violence, particularly the use of torture, abductions and targeted assassinations, are now justified as part of a state of exception that has become normalized. A “political culture of hyper punitiveness”(24) has become normalized and accelerates throughout the social order like a highly charged electric current. Democracy no longer leaves open the importance of an experience of the common good. As a mode of “failed sociality,” the current version of market fundamentalism has turned the principles of democracy against itself, deforming both the language of freedom and justice that made equality a viable idea and political goal. State violence operating under the guise of personal safety and security, while parading species of democracy, cancels out democracy “as the incommensurable sharing of existence that makes the political possible.”(25) Symptoms of ethical, political and economic impoverishment are all around us.

Meanwhile, exaggerated violence is accelerated in the larger society and now rules screen culture. The public pedagogy of entertainment includes extreme images of violence, human suffering and torture splashed across giant movie screens, some in 3D, offering viewers every imaginable portrayal of violent acts, each more shocking and brutal than the last. The growing taste for violence can be seen in the increasing modeling of public schools after prisons, the criminalization of behaviors such as homelessness that once were the object of social protections. A symptomatic example of the way in which violence has saturated everyday life can be seen in the growing acceptance of criminalizing the behavior of young people in public schools. Behaviors that were normally handled by teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators are now dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. The consequences have been disastrous for young people. Not only do schools resemble the culture of prisons, but young children are being arrested and subjected to court appearances for behaviors that can only be termed as trivial. How else to explain the case of the five-year-old girl in Florida who was put in handcuffs and taken to the local jail because she had a temper tantrum; or the case of Alexa Gonzales in New York who was arrested for doodling on her desk. Even worse, a 13-year-old boy in a Maryland school was arrested for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance. There is more at work than stupidity and a flight from responsibility on the part of educators, parents and politicians who maintain these laws; there is also the growing sentiment that young people constitute a threat to adults and that the only way to deal with them is to subject them to mind-crushing punishment. Students being miseducated, criminalized and arrested through a form of penal pedagogy in prison-type schools provide a grim reminder of the degree to which the ethos of containment and punishment now creeps into spheres of everyday life that were largely immune in the past from this type of state violence. The governing through crime ethic also reminds us that we live in an era that breaks young people, corrupts the notion of justice and saturates the minute details of everyday life with the threat, if not reality, of violence. This mediaeval type of punishment inflicts pain on the psyche and the body of young people as part of a public spectacle. Even more disturbing is how the legacy of slavery informs this practice given that “Arrests and police interactions … disproportionately affect low-income schools with large African-American and Latino populations,”(26) paving the way for them to move almost effortlessly through the school-to-prison pipeline. Surely, the next step will be a reality TV franchise in which millions tune in to watch young kids being handcuffed, arrested, tried in the courts and sent to juvenile detention centers. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform – it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself.

As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of war, violence and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute an important and new symbiosis among visual pleasure, violence and suffering. The control society is now the ultimate form of entertainment as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, has become the subject not of compassion, but of ridicule and amusement in America. High-octane violence and human suffering are now considered another form of entertainment designed to raise the collective pleasure quotient. Reveling in the suffering of others should no longer be reduced to a matter of individual pathology, but now registers a larger economy of pleasure across the broader culture and social landscape. My emphasis here is on the sadistic impulse and how it merges spectacles of violence and brutality with forms of collective pleasure. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared fears rather than shared responsibilities. Widespread violence now functions as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that creates the foundation for sapping democracy of any political substance and moral vitality. The prevalence of institutionalized violence in American society and other parts of the world suggests the need for a new conversation and politics that addresses what a just and fair world looks like. The predominance of violence in all aspects of social life suggests that young people and others marginalized by class, race and ethnicity have been abandoned as American society’s claim on democracy gives way to the forces of militarism, market fundamentalism and state terrorism. The prevalence of violence throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order, but imagines a new one, one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present.(27) In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. The challenge that young people are posing to American society is being met with a state-sponsored violence that is about more than police brutality; it is more importantly about the transformation of the United States from a social state to a warfare state, from a state that embraced the social contract to one that no longer has a language for community – a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic vision. Until we address how the metaphysics of war and violence have taken hold on American society (and in other parts of the world) and the savage social costs it has enacted, the forms of social, political and economic violence that young people are protesting against as well as the violence waged in response to their protests will become impossible to recognize and act on.

To read other articles by Henry A. Giroux or other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

Footnotes:

1. See Loic Wacquant, “Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal government of Social Insecurity” (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

2. See here.

3. Kyle Bella, “Bodies in Alliance: Gender Theorist Judith Butler on the Occupy and SlutWalk Movements,” Truthout (December 15, 2011). Online here.

4. Richard Lichtman, “Not a Revolution?,” Truthout, (December 14, 2011).

5. Arun Gupta, Arundhati Roy: “The People Who Created the Crisis Will Not Be the Ones That Come Up With a Solution,” The Guardian UK, (12/01/2011). Online here.

6. Staughton Lynd, “What is to be Done Next?,” CounterPunch, (February 29, 2012).

7. Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” The New York Review of Books 11:12 (July 14, 2005), pp. 14-18.

8. Stuart Hall, “The Neo-Liberal Revolution,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 25, No. 6, (November 2011), p. 706.

9. Daniel Bell, “The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties” (New York: Free Press, 1966) and the more recent Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History and the Last Man” (New York: Free Press, 2006) .

10. Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian UK, (September 12, 2011), online here.

11. Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

12. C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 222.

13.13. See Gore Vidal, “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia” (New York: Nation Books, 2004); Gore Vidal, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” (New York: Nation Books, 2002); Chris Hedges, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” (New York: Anchor Books, 2003); Chalmers Johnson, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004); Andrew Bacevich, “The New American Militarism” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Chalmers Johnson, “Nemesis: The Last Days of the Republic” (New York: Metropolitan Books); Andrew J. Bacevich, “Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War,” (New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books, Henry Hold and Company, 2010); Nick Turse, “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

14. Philip Govrevitch, “Whose Police?” The New Yorker, (11/17/11).

15. Phil Rockstroh, “The Police State Makes Its Move: Retaining One’s Humanity in the Face of Tyranny,” CommonDreams, (11/15/11). Online here.

16. Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “Cops Ready for War,” RSN, (December 21, 2011). Online here.

17. Ibid.

18. Glenn Greenwald, “The Roots of The UC-Davis Pepper-Spraying,” Salon (Nov. 20, 2011). Online here.

19. Erica Goode, “Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds,” The New York Times, (December 19, 2011) p. A15.

20. Michael Geyer, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914 – 1945,” in The Militarization of the Western World, ed. John R. Gillis (New York: Rutgers University Press, 1989), p. 79.

21. Tony Judt, “The New World Order,” The New York Review of Books 11:2 (July 14, 2005), p.17.

22. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), p. 149.

23. Zygmunt Bauman, “Life in Fragments” (Malden: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 149-150.

24. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City,” Antipode (2006), p. 757.

25. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, “Translators Note,” in Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Truth of Democracy,” (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2010), p. ix.

26. Smartypants, “A Failure of Imagination,” Smartypants Blog Spot (March 3, 2010). Online here.

27. John Van Houdt, “The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou,” Continent, 1.4 (2011): 234-238. Online here.

So Young and So Many Pills: Over 25% Of Kids And Teens In The U.S. Take Prescriptions Drugs On A Regular Basis

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Oldspeak:” A vastly expanded and globalized pharmaceutical industry always requires new test subjects- err.. I mean “customers” to sell their “medicine” to. And they’re getting younger and younger. 8 year olds on blood pressure meds. 4 year olds on powerful anti-psychotics. Our children are part of the largest uncontrolled experiment in history. No one really knows the long term health effects of exposing still developing brains to questionably tested drugs that alter brain chemistry. Never mind the psychological effects of socializing the use of pharmaceutical “cures” and unnatural response to illness, rather than dealing with the unseen societal conditions that cause them.”

From Anna Wilde Mathews @ The Wall Street Journal:

Gage Martindale, who is 8 years old, has been taking a blood-pressure drug since he was a toddler. “I want to be healthy, and I don’t want things in my heart to go wrong,” he says.

And, of course, his mom is always there to check Gage’s blood pressure regularly with a home monitor, and to make sure the second-grader doesn’t skip a dose of his once-a-day enalapril.



These days, the medicine cabinet is truly a family affair. More than a quarter of U.S. kids and teens are taking a medication on a chronic basis, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc., the biggest U.S. pharmacy-benefit manager with around 65 million members. Nearly 7% are on two or more such drugs, based on the company’s database figures for 2009.

Doctors and parents warn that prescribing medications to children can be problematic. There is limited research available about many drugs’ effects in kids. And health-care providers and families need to be vigilant to assess the medicines’ impact, both intended and not. Although the effects of some medications, like cholesterol-lowering statins, have been extensively researched in adults, the consequences of using such drugs for the bulk of a patient’s lifespan are little understood.

Many medications kids take on a regular basis are well known, including treatments for asthma and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

But children and teens are also taking a wide variety of other medications once considered only to be for adults, from statins to diabetes pills and sleep drugs, according to figures provided to The Wall Street Journal by IMS Health, a research firm. Prescriptions for antihypertensives in people age 19 and younger could hit 5.5 million this year if the trend though September continues, according to IMS. That would be up 17% from 2007, the earliest year available.

Researchers attribute the wide usage in part to doctors and parents becoming more aware of drugs as an option for kids. Unhealthy diets and lack of exercise among children, which lead to too much weight gain and obesity, also fuel the use of some treatments, such as those for hypertension. And some conditions are likely caught and treated earlier as screening and diagnosis efforts improve.

Gage, who isn’t overweight, has been on hypertension drugs since he had surgery to fix a heart defect as a toddler, says his mother, Stefanie Martindale, a Conway, Ark., marketing-company manager.

Most medications that could be prescribed to children on a chronic basis haven’t been tested specifically in kids, says Danny Benjamin, a Duke University pediatrics professor. And older drugs rarely get examined, since pharmaceutical firms have little incentive to test medicines once they are no longer under patent protection.

Still, a growing number of studies have been done under a Food and Drug Administration program that rewards drug companies for testing medications in children. In more than a third of these studies, there have been surprising side effects, or results that suggested a smaller or larger dose was needed than had been expected, Dr. Benjamin says. Those findings underscore that children’s reactions to medicines can be very different than those of adults. Long-term effects of drugs in kids are almost never known, since pediatric studies, like those in adults, tend to be relatively short.

“We know we’re making errors in dosing and safety,” says Dr. Benjamin, who is leading a new National Institutes of Health initiative to study drugs in children. He suggests that parents should do as much research as they can to understand the evidence for the medicine, confirm the diagnosis, and identify side effects. Among the places to check: drug labels and other resources on the FDA’s website, published research at www.pubmed.gov, and clinical guidelines from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When a child psychiatrist diagnosed their then 8-year-old daughter with bipolar disorder four years ago, Ken and Joy Lewis, of Chapel Hill, N.C., sought a second opinion from another child psychiatrist.

They also worked with a psychologist. Dr. Lewis, who leads a company that does early-stage drug studies, reads all the available research on each medication suggested for the girl, now 12, who has taken antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications including Risperdal and Haldol.

“If your child has a chronic problem, then you have to invest the time as a parent,” he says.

Parents and doctors also say nondrug alternatives should be explored where possible. Tom Wells, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who sees patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, frequently pushes diet and exercise changes before drugs for hypertensive kids. “Obesity is really the biggest cause I see for high blood pressure in adolescents,” he says. But only about 10% of families adhere to his diet and exercise recommendations, he says.

Beverly Pizzano, a psychologist who lives in Palm Harbor, Fla., spent years struggling with behavioral therapies for her son Steven, 10, who showed symptoms of ADHD at a young age. She worked with a counselor on a system of rewards for good behavior, and even had a research team watch him and suggest interventions. But she turned to medications after he struggled in kindergarten. “We tried everything before I would get to that,” she says.

After a drug is prescribed, children must be closely monitored, doctors say. They may not recognize or communicate a possible side effect, or whether their symptoms are improving. They also don’t always follow prescription instructions.

Robert Lemanske, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, says patients at his pediatric asthma clinic are checked regularly for side effects such as slowed rates of growth. He quizzes parents and young patients on details like where they keep their inhalers to make sure they’re taking their prescribed medicine.

Nichole Ramsey, a preschool teacher whose 9-year-old son Antwone is a patient at the clinic, watches her son’s basketball practices so she can head off any wheezing or other symptoms. She also makes sure she’s around when he gets his regular Advair dose. If Antwone stays at a friend’s house overnight, she asks the parents to watch that he takes steps like rinsing out his mouth to avoid a fungal infection that can be a side effect of the inhaled drug.

“You’re still the best monitor of what’s going on with them,” she says of a parent’s role.

Ms. Ramsey is particularly concerned about Advair, which has been tied to rare instances of asthma-related death, but says it works better than a previous drug he was using. Before he started the medications, Antwone was hospitalized several times for asthma attacks.

As children’s bodies change and grow, they often need different drugs or doses, says Greg Kearns, chairman of medical research at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Jennifer Flory, a homemaker in Baldwin City, Kan., says that after her daughter Cassandra, now 16, started taking a higher dose of the asthma drug Singulair a few years ago, she became more moody and sad. Ms. Flory didn’t connect the change to the drug, but when she eventually mentioned it to a nurse practitioner at the girl’s asthma clinic, the nurse suggested stopping Singulair, which currently has a precaution in its label about possible psychiatric side effects. Cassandra, who continued taking Advair, became far more cheerful and didn’t have any increase in asthma symptoms, Ms. Flory says.

A spokesman for Merck & Co., which makes Singulair, said in a statement that the company is “confident in the efficacy and safety of Singulair,” which is “an important treatment option for appropriate patients.”

Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at anna.mathews@wsj.com

Over Half a Million U.S. Kids Per Year Suffer Health Reactions From Prescription Drugs

From David Gutierez @ Food Matters:

More than half a million children suffer adverse reactions every year in the United States from prescription drugs, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston and published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers examined data on emergency room and clinic visits between the years of 1995 and 2005 by children under the age of 18. The average number of children receiving treatment for adverse prescription drug effects each year in that time period was 585,922. The number fluctuated very little from year to year.

Adverse drug events included accidental overdoses, side effects and wrong prescriptions.

Prior research has found that another half million children suffer adverse prescription drug reactions every year while in hospitals, bringing the total annual number of adverse drug effects in children up to more than one million. These numbers do not include negative reactions to over-the-counter drugs.

Researchers in the current study uncovered no reports of deaths caused by adverse drug reactions, but 5 percent of children did require hospitalization. Forty-three percent of the adverse reactions occurred in children under the age of five, with another 23 percent occurring in those between the ages of 15 and 18.

The most common causes of adverse effects in young children were prescription antibiotics. Some of the more common side effects were diarrhea, rash and stomach ache. Birth control pills were a common cause of side effects in teenagers, producing problems such as nausea, vomiting and disrupted menstrual cycles.

Drugs for depression and cancer were also significant causes of negative reactions.

According to lead author Florence Bourgeois, doctors need to inform parents of the possible side effects of any drugs children are given. Parents should watch their children especially carefully when a new drug is taken, she said, because “first-time medication exposures may reveal an allergic reaction.”


What’s Making 7-Year Old Girls Develop Breasts?

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 10:12 am

Oldspeak:“Yet another pseudo-debate involving obesity and abnormal development, that fails to identify the blindingly obvious root cause: the copious amounts of artificial chemical laden, and petrochemical encased (plastic) “food” that today’s children eat their entire lives. Big Food their armies of “food chemists” are never mentioned as the major contributors they are to the skyrocketing incidents of obesity, cancer and countless other forms of mental and physical illness that plague U.S.”

From Denise Grady @ The New York Times:

A new study finds that girls are more likely today than in the past to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8.

The research is just the latest in a flood of reports over the last decade that have led to concern and heated debate about whether girls are reaching puberty earlier, and why it might be happening.

Increased rates of obesity are thought to play a major role, because body fat can produce sex hormones. Some researchers also suspect that environmental chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen may be speeding up the clock on puberty, but that idea is unproved.

The issue is of concern for both medical and psychosocial reasons. Studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, probably because it results in longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can feed some tumors.

Although the new study did not look at menstrual age, breast growth is also a sign of hormone exposure, and some researchers fear that early development might also mean an increased cancer risk.

Socially and emotionally, life can be difficult for a girl who has a child’s mind in a woman’s body and is not ready to deal with sexual advances from men and boys, or cope with her own hormone-spiked emotions and sexual impulses.

“Our analysis shows clearly that the white participants entered puberty earlier than we anticipated,” said Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study showed. But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls’ hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals.

“It’s certainly throwing up a warning flag,” Dr. Biro said. “I think we need to think about the stuff we’re exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it.”

Dr. Catherine Gordon, a pediatric endocrinologist and specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that so far, most evidence showed that neither breast development nor menstrual age had changed for white girls of normal weight.

The new study included 1,239 girls ages 6 to 8 who were recruited from schools and examined at one of three sites: the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital or Kaiser Permanente Northern California/University of California, San Francisco. The group was roughly 30 percent each white, black and Hispanic, and about 5 percent Asian.

At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.

At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics. The percentages for blacks and whites were even higher than those found by a 1997 study that was one of the first to suggest that puberty was occurring earlier in girls.

The new study is being published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics. It was paid for by government grants and conducted at hospitals that are part of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers, a group formed in 2003 after breast cancer advocates petitioned Congress to set aside money to study possible links between environmental exposures and breast cancer.

If there is an ideal age when girls should reach puberty, no one knows what it is, said Dr. Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A girl needs a certain amount of body fat to start menstruating, and girls who are malnourished or ill may have delayed puberty.

In developed countries, the age of puberty dropped from the 19th to 20th centuries, as nutrition improved and infectious diseases were brought under better control, and it was seen as a sign of progress. But if the drop continues, at what point does it become pathological?

The debate over this issue started with a study published in 1997 by a research team led by Dr. Herman-Giddens. In the study, pediatricians around the country rated sexual maturation in 17,077 girls ages 3 to 12. The study found that breasts or pubic hair, or both, were far more common in 7- and 8-year-olds than medical textbooks had been reporting.

The researchers were also surprised to find that black girls developed significantly earlier than whites. But they cautioned that there had been few rigorous studies of puberty, so it was not clear whether their research was detecting a new trend or just discovering that the medical books were wrong.

The study led to a bit of a furor. Some endocrinologists doubted the findings and warned that if doctors and parents started blithely assuming that puberty at 7 or 8 was the new normal, they would overlook serious problems like endocrine diseases or tumors. But others warned that if the new findings were rejected, families would be frightened needlessly and fortunes wasted on batteries of tests for perfectly normal 7- and 8-year-old girls with budding breasts.

Dozens of studies have been published in the years since. Arguments continue, but many doctors accept the idea that heavier girls often develop earlier. And subsequent studies have also found that black and Hispanic girls mature earlier than whites, even when weight is taken into account. No one knows why. Though breasts may be sprouting earlier, the average age of first menstruation, between 12 and 13, has not really changed.

Dr. Vaneeta Bamba, director of the Diagnostic and Research Growth Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that the 1997 study had “somewhat reshaped” endocrinologists’ thinking about the onset of puberty, but that most would still urge a thorough medical evaluation for any girl under 8 who was showing significant breast development or other signs of puberty. She said she doubted that the new study would change medical practice.

One objection to the 1997 study was that the pediatricians may have mistaken fat deposits for breast tissue in some girls, or differed in other ways in assessing the stage of breast development.

In the new study, the researchers went to great lengths to train examiners and make sure all were on the same page when it came to checking girls’ breasts and rating their stage of development.

Dr. Gordon said it would be important to continue the studies, and to try to find out whether environmental chemicals were having an effect.

Five ways to avoid BPAs in your food:

From Sara Snow @ treehugger

study was conducted by a coalition of consumer and food safety groups. It found detectable levels of BPA in the foods of 46 out of 50 canned food products tested. The study indicates that BPA is leaching from the lining of these cans into the foods that we are eating.

Here are 5 ways you can avoid BPA exposure every day:

1. Buy food in jars where you would typically buy cans. Look for stewed tomatoes, beans and soups in glass jars instead of cans. You might be surprised at how easy it is to find these today.

2. Buy more fresh foods and rely on those instead of ones that have been preserved for you. When foods are in season, stock up and freeze these for later use. Tomatoes, green beans and fresh fruits are perfect.

3. Look for BPA-free cans but beware that even these are not foolproof. Some progressive companies like Eden foods and Vital Choice have started moving towards healthier can linings, but even these contained small amounts of BPA in the foods when tested. (It’s likely that the chemical entered the cans through other means – the factory or another environmental source.)

4. Avoid Polycarbonate plastics for warm foods or liquids. These plastic containers should be marked with a number 7 on the bottom or the letters “PC”. When packing up leftovers, look for plastics labeled #1, #2 or #4 as these are generally healthier and don’t contain BPA.

5. If you’re feeding your infant baby formula, opt for a powdered formula rather than a liquid where BPA-lined cans and lids are likely to pose more of a risk.

The Hidden Tragedy Of The CIA’s Experiments On Children

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Oldspeak: “What fresh hell is THIS? So-called medical doctors administering Metrazol LSD and electroshock ‘treatment’ to children.  That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok – and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged.”

From H.P. Albarelli Jr. and Dr. Jeffrey S. Kaye @ t r u t h o u t

Bobby is seven years old, but this is not the first time he has been subjected to electroshock. It’s his third time. In all, over the next year, Bobby will experience eight electroshock sessions. Placed on the examining table, he is held down by two male attendants while the physician places a solution on his temples. Bobby struggles with the two men holding him down, but his efforts are useless. He cries out and tries to pull away. One of the attendants tries to force a thick wedge of rubber into his mouth. He turns his head sharply away and cries out, “Let me go, please. I don’t want to be here. Please, let me go.” Bobby’s physician looks irritated and she tells him, “Come on now, Bobby, try to act like a big boy and be still and relax.” Bobby turns his head away from the woman and opens his mouth for the wedge that will prevent him from biting through his tongue. He begins to cry silently, his small shoulders shaking and he stiffens his body against what he knows is coming.

Mary is only five years old. She sits on a small, straight-backed chair, moving her legs back and forth, humming the same four notes over and over and over. Her head, framed in a tangled mass of golden curls, moves up and down with each note. For the first three years of her life, Mary was thought to be a mostly normal child. Then, after she began behaving oddly, she had been handed off to a foster family. Her father and mother didn’t want her any longer. She had become too strange for her father, whose alcoholism clouded any awareness of his young daughter. Mary’s mother had never wanted her anyway and was happy to have her placed in another home. When the LSD Mary has been given begins to have its effects, she stops moving her head and legs and sits staring at the wall. She doesn’t move at all. After about ten minutes, she looks at the nearby physician observing her, and says, “God isn’t coming back today. He’s too busy. He won’t be back here for weeks.”

From early 1940 to 1953, Dr. Lauretta Bender, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist practicing at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, experimented extensively with electroshock therapy on children who had been diagnosed with “autistic schizophrenia.” In all, it has been reported that Bender administered electroconvulsive therapy to at least 100 children ranging in age from three years old to 12 years, with some reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One source reports that, inclusive of Bender’s work, electroconvulsive treatment was used on more than 500 children at Bellevue Hospital from 1942 to 1956, and then at Creedmoor State Hospital Children’s Service from 1956 to 1969. Bender was a confident and dogmatic woman, who bristled at criticism, oftentimes refused to acknowledge reality even when it stood starkly before her.

Despite publicly claiming good results with electroshock treatment, privately Bender said she was seriously disappointed in the aftereffects and results shown by the subject children. Indeed, the condition of some of the children appeared to have only worsened. One six-year-old boy, after being shocked several times, went from being a shy, withdrawn child to acting increasingly aggressive and violent. Another child, a seven-year-old girl, following five electroshock sessions had become nearly catatonic.

Years later, another of Bender’s young patients who became overly aggressive after about 20 treatments, now grown, was convicted in court as a “multiple murderer.” Others, in adulthood, reportedly were in and of trouble and prison for a battery of petty and violent crimes. A 1954 scientific study of about 50 of Bender’s young electroshock patients, conducted by two psychologists, found that nearly all were worse off after the “therapy” and that some had become suicidal after treatment. One of the children studied in 1954 was the son of well-known writer Jacqueline Susann, author of the bestselling novel “Valley of the Dolls.” Susann’s son, Guy, was diagnosed with autism shortly after birth and, when he was three years old, Dr. Bender convinced Susann and her husband that Guy could be successfully treated with electroshock therapy. Guy returned home from Bender’s care a nearly lifeless child. Susann later told people that Bender had “destroyed” her son. Guy has been confined to institutions since his treatment.

To their credit, some of Dr. Bender’s colleagues considered her use of electroshock on children “scandalous,” but few colleagues spoke out against her, a situation still today common among those in the medical profession. Said Dr. Leon Eisenberg, a widely respected physician and true pioneer in the study of autistic children, “[Lauretta Bender] claimed that some of these children recovered [because of her use of shock treatment]. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to several studies by [Dr. E. R.] Clardy. He was at Rockwin State Hospital – the back up to Bellevue – and he described the arrival of these children. He considered them psychotic and perhaps worse off then before the treatment.” (This writer could find no case where any of Bender’s colleagues spoke out against her decidedly racist viewpoints. Bender made it quite clear that she felt that African-Americans were best characterized by their “capacity for laziness” and “ability to dance,” both features, Bender claimed, of the “specific brain impulses” of African-Americans.)

About the same time Dr. Bender was conducting her electroshock experiments, she was also widely experimenting on autistic and schizophrenic children with what she termed other “treatment endeavors.” These included use of a wide array of psycho-pharmaceutical agents, several provided to her by the Sandoz Chemical Co. in Basel, Switzerland, as well as Metrazol, sub-shock insulin therapy, amphetamines and anticonvulsants. Metrazol was a trade name for pentylenetetrazol, a drug used as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. High doses cause convulsions, as discovered in 1934 by the Hungarian-American neurologist and psychiatrist Ladislas J. Meduna.

Metrazol had been used in convulsive therapy, but was never considered to be effective, and side effects such as seizures were difficult to avoid. The medical records of several patients who were confined at Vermont State Hospital, a public mental facility, reveal that Metrazol was administered to them by CIA contractor Dr. Robert Hyde on numerous occasions in order “to address overly aggressive behavior.” One of these patients, Karen Wetmore, received the drug on a number of occasions for no discernible medical reason. During the same ten-year period in which Metrazol was used by the Vermont State Hospital, patient deaths skyrocketed. In 1982, the FDA revoked its approval of Metrazol.

Here it should be noted that, during the cold war years, CIA and Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) interrogators, working as part of projects Bluebird and Artichoke, sometimes injected large amounts of Metrazol into selected enemy or Communist agents for the purposes of severely frightening other suspected agents, by forcing them to observe the procedure. The almost immediate effects of Metrazol are shocking for many to witness: subjects will shake violently, twisting and turning. They typically arch, jerk and contort their bodies and grimace in pain. With Metrazol, as with electroshock, bone fractures – including broken necks and backs – and joint dislocations are not uncommon, unless strong sedatives are administered beforehand.

A November 1936 Time magazine article seriously questioned the benefits of Metrazol, citing “irreversible shock” as a “great danger.” The article described a typical Metrazol injection as such: “A patient receives no food for four or five hours. Then about five cubic centimeters of the drug [Metrazol] are injected into his veins. In about half-a-minute he coughs, casts terrified glances around the room, twitches violently, utters a horse wail, freezes into rigidity with his mouth wide open, arms and legs stiff as boards. Then he goes into convulsions. In one or two minutes the convulsions are over and he gradually passes into a coma, which lasts about an hour. After a series of shocks, his mind may be swept clean of delusions…. A patient is seldom given more than 20 injections and if no improvement is noted after ten treatments, he is usually given up as hopeless.”

The Army, the CIA and Metrazol

Army CIC interrogators working with the CIA at prisoner of war camps and safe house locations in post-war Germany on occasion used Metrazol, morphine, heroin and LSD on incarcerated subjects. According to former CIC officer Miles Hunt, several “safe houses and holding areas outside of Frankfurt near Oberursel” – a former Nazi interrogation center taken over by the US – were operated by a “special unit run by Capt. Malcolm S. Hilty, Maj. Mose Hart and Capt. Herbert Sensenig. The unit was especially notorious in its applications of interrogation methods [including the use of electroshock and Metrazol, mescaline, amphetamines and other drugs].” Said Hunt: “The unit took great pride in their nicknames, the ‘Rough Boys’ and the ‘Kraut Gauntlet,’ and didn’t hold back with any drug or technique … you name it, they used it.” Added Hunt, “Sensenig was really disappointed when it was found that nothing had to be used on [former Reichsmarschall] Herman Goering, who was processed through the camp. Goering needed no inducement to talk.”

Eventually, CIC interrogators working in Germany would be assisted in their use of interrogation drugs by several “former” Nazi scientists recruited by the CIA and US State Department as part of Project Paperclip. By early 1952, the CIC’s Rough Boys would routinely use Metrazol during interrogations, as well as LSD, mescaline and conventional electroshock units.

Metrazol-like drugs are still used in interrogations today. According to reports from several former noncommissioned Army officers, who served on rendition-related security details in Turkey, Pakistan and Romania, drugs that produce effects quite similar to Metrazol are still used in 2010 by the Pentagon and CIA on enemy combatants and rendered subjects held at the many “black sites” maintained across the globe. Observed one former officer recently, “They would twist up like a pretzel, in unbelievable shapes and jerk and shake like crazy, their eyes nearly popping out of their heads.”

In 2008, at the behest of US Sens. Carl Levin, Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel and in reaction to a March 2008 article in The Washington Post, the Pentagon initiated an Inspector General Report on the use of “mind-altering substances by DoD [Department of Defense] Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror.” It is not known if the investigation has been completed. Among the more famous recent cases of the use of drugs upon prisoners concerns one-time alleged “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla, who had originally been accused of wanting to set off a “dirty bomb.” The charge was later forced, but Padilla was held in solitary confinement for many months and forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The government has gone to great efforts to keep the public uninformed as regards use of drugs on prisoners. In an article by Carol Rosenberg for McClatchy News in July 2010, Rosenberg reported that, when covering the Guantanamo military commissions trials, when the question of “what psychotropic drugs were given another accused 9/11 conspirator, Ramzi bin al Shibh, the courtroom censor hits a white noise button so reporters viewing from a glass booth can’t hear the names of the drugs. Under current Navy instructions for the use of human subjects in research, the undersecretary of the Navy is described as the authority in charge of research concerning consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques,” while at the same time is also responsible for “inherently controversial topics” that might attract media interest or “challenge by interest groups.”

Dr. Bender Discovers LSD

In 1955 and1956, Dr. Bender began hearing glowing accounts about the potential of LSD for producing remarkable results in children suffering mental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Bender’s earlier work with electroshock therapy had brought her into contact with several other prominent physicians who, at the time, were covert contractors with the CIA’s MK/ULTRA and Artichoke projects. Primary among these physicians were Drs. Harold A. Abramson, Paul Hoch, James B. Cattell, Joel Elkes, Max Fink, Harris Isbell and Alfred Hubbard. Some of these names may be familiar to readers. Dr. Abramson, a noted allergist who surreptitiously worked for both the US Army and CIA since the late 1940s, was the physician Frank Olson was taken to see, shortly before his murder in New York City in November 1953. About a year earlier, Drs. Hoch and Cattell were responsible for injecting unwitting New York State Psychiatric Institute patient Harold Blauer with a massive dose of mescaline that killed him. Dr. Elkes was one of the earliest physicians in Europe to experiment with LSD, having requested samples of the drug from Sandoz Chemical Co. in 1949. Elkes was a close associate of Dr. Abraham Wikler, who worked closely with Dr. Harris Isbell at the now-closed Lexington, Kentucky, prison farm, where hundreds of already drug-addicted inmates were given heroin in exchange for their participation in LSD and mescaline experiments underwritten by the CIA and Pentagon. Elkes worked closely with the CIA, Pentagon and Britain’s MI6 on drug experiments in England and the United States.

Dr. Fink, who was greatly admired by Bender, is considered the godfather of electroshock therapy in the United States. In the early 1950s and beyond, Fink was a fully cleared CIA Project Artichoke consultant. In 1951, CIA officials under the direction of Paul Gaynor and Morse Allen of the agency’s Security Research Service (SRS) that oversaw Artichoke, worked closely with Fink in New York City in efforts to thoroughly explore the merits of electroshock techniques for interrogations. The CIA was especially interested in the use of standard electroshock machines in producing amnesia, inducing subjects to talk and making subjects more prone to hypnotic control. According to one CIA document, Fink told officials “an individual could gradually be reduced through the use to electroshock treatment to the vegetable level.”

In addition to Fink, Bender also greatly admired the work of Dr. Lothar B. Kalinowsky, a psychiatrist who also consulted closely with the CIA on electroshock matters. Kalinowsky, who was part Jewish and had fled Germany in 1933, was Fink’s close friend and, like Fink, was widely recognized as an expert on electroconvulsive therapy. Kalinowsky met with the CIA’s Allen and Gaynor frequently and sometimes was accompanied by Dr. Fink at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he worked closely with Dr. Hoch.

While it is clear from Dr. Bender’s papers that she also considered the early LSD work of “Dr.” Alfred M. Hubbard in Vancouver, Canada, to be “very substantial and beneficial,” it is important to state here that Hubbard was not a physician nor did he have any formal medical training. Hubbard, a jovial character who sometimes worked with the FBI and CIA, was a strong proponent of the use of LSD. Despite the fact that he had no medical credentials and once served time in prison for smuggling, he hoodwinked the Sandoz Chemical Co. into supplying him such ample amounts of LSD that he dispersed so widely and abundantly that he earned the title “The Johnny Appleseed of LSD.” Hubbard’s use of LSD in allegedly curing alcoholism is still cited today. How Hubbard so easily passed as a physician is unknown. Even a 1961 paper published by New York Medical College, Department of Psychiatry, and authored by Dr. A.M. Freedman, cited Hubbard’s LSD work with “children, primarily delinquents” to have been 85% successful.”

Other physicians whom Dr. Bender consulted about the effects of LSD on children were Drs. Ronald A. Sandison, Thomas M. Ling and John Buckman. These three worked in England at both the Chelsea Clinic in London and Potwick Hospital in Worcestershire, outside of London. Sandison is credited with having been the first person to bring LSD into England, this in 1952 after he met Albert Hofmann in Basle, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Chemical laboratories. Hofmann handed Sandison a box of around 600 ampules, each containing 100 micrograms of LSD. Back in England, Sandison shared his psychedelic bounty with associates Drs. Ling and Buckman. Before the year was out, Sandison also turned Hubbard on to LSD, guiding Hubbard through his first trip. Sandison also began a new treatment program at the Gothic-looking Potwick facility that he dubbed Psycholytic Therapy. His program’s patients were mostly schizophrenics. In 1958, an LSD treatment unit was established at Potwick. Over the years, it has been reported that the CIA, MI6 and the Macy Foundation secretly helped finance the unit. Dr. Elkes helped by raising about $75,000 for the unit’s operation. For the next ten years the unit administered over 15,000 doses of LSD to about 900 patients.

Drs. Buckman and Ling worked closely with Sandison in the Potwick unit. In 1963, Buckman and Ling wrote in a publication, describing “good examples” of the use of LSD in psycholytic psychotherapy: “The patients’ experiences under LSD have not supported Marx’s dictum that Religion is the opium of the people but rather that there is a deep basic belief in a Supreme Being, whether the religion background be Christian, Jewish or Hindu.”

Dr. Buckman also worked at London’s Chelsea Clinic, often times treating adults and sometimes children. Buckman believed strongly that “frigidity” in women could be treated successfully with LSD. In 1967, he said of LSD: “Many therapists believe that a transcendental experience – a feeling that it is a good world and one is a part of it – is a curative experience in itself.” According to several informed sources in the London, for years MI6, the British intelligence service and the CIA closely monitored the LSD work conducted by Sandison, Ling and Buckman.

Two Sisters, LSD and Dr. Buckman

Marion McGill, today an attorney and college professor in the western United States and her sister, Trudy, were sent in 1960 by their parents to be interviewed by Drs. Ling and Buckman at the Chelsea Clinic in London. At the time, Marion was 13 years old and her sister was 15. Marion says that both her mother and father were “quite taken with the benefits of LSD and thought that we would also benefit from the drug.” Both parents had undergone a series of ten LSD “treatments” at the Chelsea clinic. Marion goes on:

“As a 13-year old at the time, my decision-making capacity was very limited. I was, by nature, fairly compliant and docile, rather eager to please my parents. I understood nothing of what was being suggested for me and my 15 year-old sister – namely that we participate in some sort of ‘research’ that both our parents had also participated in. Whether the word ‘experiment’ was used, I don’t recall. The term ‘LSD’ was vaguely familiar, however, because my parents were ‘taking’ this drug as a form of ‘quick therapy’ – their term for it – that had been recommended by my uncle, a psychiatrist at a well known east coast medical school. Both parents needed therapy, in my view. While highly successful professionally, my father was a tightly wound, rather angry and insecure man, an accomplished academic, but an ‘industrial strength narcissist,’ as I later called him. My mother was a submissive, obedient, Catholic woman without much identity of her own, other than being a doctor’s wife.

“My sister and I, however, were about as ‘normal’ as any two teenagers could be. We were at the top of our classes in school; both of us had lots of friends, participated in extra curricular activities. We didn’t need ‘therapy.’ We were told we would get a day off from school after each overnight stay at the clinic for this LSD. It was perhaps the prospect of a day off from Catholic girls’ school that persuaded us to do it. I wasn’t aware of making a ‘decision.’ The purpose of this program was never explained. There were to be 10 sessions – once a week for 10 weeks. I believe they started in January 1960.

“The experiences at the clinic where the LSD was administered were quite strange. There was a brief ‘interview’ by Dr. John Buckman, asking banal questions about health issues (none), but providing no information about what to expect from the LSD. There was no mention, for example, of hallucinations or perceptual distortions or anything frightening. I was not informed of any persistent effects, such as nightmares. Certainly the possibility of lasting damage was not mentioned. The word ‘experiment’ was not used. There was, in other words, no informed consent whatsoever. I was not told that I could refuse to participate, that I could quit at any time (as provided in the Nuremberg Code). Since I was below the age of consent, my parents would have been the ones to agree to this. Indeed, they were the ones to suggest that we be used in these experiments. It would not otherwise have happened. But my parents would never discuss this in later years and never explained why they did it.

“During the 10 sessions, each of which involved an injection, my sister and I were kept in separate bedrooms, darkened rooms, usually with someone present in the room, but I don’t know who the person was. Occasionally, my mother was also present. At times, I was so frightened by the hallucinations that I screamed and tried to escape from the room. I remember once actually reaching the hallway and being forcibly put back into the bedroom by my mother. I saw a wild array of images – nightmarish visions, occasionally provoking hysterical laughter, followed immediately by wracking sobs. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was terrifying.

“There was no effort to counsel us during or after each of these sessions. There was no ‘debriefing,’ no explanation of what was happening or why this was being done to us. Why I did not refuse to participate after I first experienced it, I don’t know. But as an adult and later as a professional medical ethicist, I recognized this lack of resistance as a function of childhood itself. Most children who are victims of parental abuse do not know how to resist. They fear rejection by parents more than they fear the abuse, it seems. The ‘power differential’ is huge between parents and children and the dependence on parents is virtually absolute. We were also, living in London at the time, away from our friends. My sister and I had been told not to talk about what we were doing. We were Catholics, obedient to parents, etc. Our father was a doctor, after all – it was hard to grasp that he would do harm to us or that our mother would. Children just don’t think this way initially. A child’s dependency usually means trusting one’s parents or caregivers.

“Although each individual session was often terrifying, any lasting effects of the LSD unfolded gradually. In the weeks immediately following the final session, I experienced frequent nightmares – visions of crawling insects, horrible masks, etc. I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid to shut my eyes. I became afraid of the dark. My parents were dismissive and unsympathetic. Their attitude was, in some ways, more disturbing to me than the experiments themselves because it meant that my parents had known full well that the experience would very likely be frightening – and hadn’t cared.

“I discovered that my parents were dishonest and unfeeling in ways that I could not comprehend. They told my sister and me never to talk about the LSD experiences, never to disclose what had happened in London. This further ruptured our relationship with them, a relationship that was, by then, permanently damaged. I was still dependent on them, however and so was my sister.

“Two years after these experiments, during her freshman year in college, my sister suffered a nervous breakdown. I don’t know the extent to which the LSD may have precipitated this. But my parents’ response to what was probably a mild breakdown from which my sister could have recovered, was coercive and drastic. She had been asking questions about the LSD at this time. She was angry about it. We both were. We talked about it together, but I was afraid to confront our parents. My sister was not. The angrier she became, the more she was ‘diagnosed’ as a ‘psychiatric’ case and the more medication she was given. To this day, my sister is heavily medicated. She never fully recovered from that first episode.

“Our parents responded to my sister’s anger in a way that frightened me further. I also felt tremendous guilt for not being able to prevent the horrors that my sister endured. Once she was ‘classified’ as a psychiatric patient, she was lost. Everything that was done to her in the name of ‘treatment’ seemed to me to be a form of ongoing abuse and torture.

“The fact that our father was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected physician – and his brother, who had introduced us to this LSD horror, was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected psychiatrist – made it impossible to expose them or go against them. Their reputations were more important to them than the health and well being of my sister.

“My own response was simply to leave home. I never trusted my parents again after the London LSD experience. I discovered many other ways in which my father and my uncle lied, covered up, dissembled and eventually threatened me, in order to keep this story from being told.

“On a positive note, the experience informed my career choices in both human rights and medical ethics, but it also made me alert to the ways in which academic medicine was – and is – corrupted by the drug industry itself and by the continuing abuse of human subjects to further the development of drugs as weapons – both for interrogation potential and also, more subtle behavior control on a massive scale. My own experience also sensitized me to the special vulnerability of children and teenagers in the medical environment.

“Even when I subsequently confronted my father with the evidence that LSD had been tested by the CIA for use as a military weapon in the 1950s and 1960s, he dismissed his participation by saying that it was an ‘enlightening experience, like visiting an art gallery.’ When I pointed out that this was not my experience as a child, he dismissed it, including the presumption that I must be a ‘conspiracy theorist’ to propose such a thing. At the age of 91, he finally admitted that it had perhaps not been a very good idea to subject my sister and me to LSD.

“Dr. Buckman and Ling were knowing participants in ongoing intelligence-based work with mind altering drugs. I ‘met’ Buckman in London when I was 13, but encountered him again years later at the university medical school in the United States where he was on the faculty.

“I went to see Dr. Buckman in his office. I asked him what he thought about the ethics of using children in an LSD experiment. At first, he didn’t seem to realize who I was. I identified myself as one of his ‘subjects’ and gave him my business card as a Medical Ethicist and lawyer. He was clearly shocked, stood up, refused to talk to me and told me to leave his office. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from my father. His brother, the psychiatrist and colleague of Dr. Buckman, had been alerted to my impromptu visit. Subsequently, both my uncle and my father threatened me, saying they would make sure I lost my university faculty position if I disclosed anything publicly about the LSD experiments in London.

“‘You will never work in bioethics again,’ they said.

“The response of all these men to the threat of disclosure indicates their lack of ethical scruples, their lack of empathy, their own pathology. I don’t know what the exact term would be, but I suspect there is a form of psychological ‘doubling’ at work – the sort of thing that was described in [Robert Jay] Lifton’s book, The Nazi Doctors who were able to ignore their Hippocratic oath to ‘first, do no harm,’ and to inflict unimaginable horrors on their fellow human beings.

“The loss of my sister has been a life long source of sorrow for me. I attribute it to the LSD and its cover up, whether the chemicals themselves ’caused’ her disintegration or not. In law this is called a ‘contributing cause.’ I learned that people cover up the most awful things, not just within a family but within communities, within universities, within ‘polite society.’ There is probably no absolute barrier that will prevent these things from being done, but they have to be exposed and called out for what they are, whenever they occur.”

Dr. Bender’s LSD Experiments on Children

Shortly after deciding to initiate her own LSD experiments on children, Bender attended a conference sponsored by a CIA front group, the Josiah Macy Foundation. The conference focused on LSD research and featured Dr. Harold A. Abramson as a presenter. In 1960, Abramson conducted his own LSD experiments on a group of six children ranging in age from five to 14 years of age. A few short months after the Macy Foundation conference, Dr. Bender was notified that her planned LSD experiments would be partially and surreptitiously funded by the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (SIHE), another CIA front group then located in Forest Hills, New York. The Society, headed by James L. Monroe, a former US Air Force officer who had worked on top-secret psychological warfare and propaganda projects, oversaw about 55 top-secret experiments underwritten by the CIA. These projects involved LSD, ESP, black magic, astrology, psychological warfare, media manipulation, and other subjects. Apparently, Bender’s work with children and LSD raised some concerns at the CIA’s Technical Services Division (TSD). A 1961 TSD memo written to Monroe questioned the “operational benefits of Dr. Bender’s work as related to children and LSD,” and requested to be kept “closely appraised of the possible links between Dr. Bender’s project and those being conducted under separate MK/ULTRA funding at designated prisons in New York and elsewhere.”

In 1960, Dr. Bender launched her first experiments with LSD and children. They were conducted within the Children’s Unit, Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. The LSD she used was supplied by Dr. Rudolph P. Bircher of the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company. (Dr. Bircher also provided Bender with UML-491, also a Sandoz-produced product, very much like LSD but sometimes “dreamier” in effect and longer lasting.) Her initial group of young subjects consisted of 14 children diagnosed schizophrenic, all under the age of 11. (Because diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, autism, and other disorders have changed over the decades, one cannot assess what actual conditions these children really had.) There were 11 boys and three girls, ranging in age from six to ten years old.

Jean Marie is almost seven years old. She came here nearly a year ago after her parents abandoned her to the care of an aunt who had no interest in raising her. Marie, who prefers to be called Jean, is shy, withdrawn, and distrustful of most adults she encounters. There are reports she may have been sexually molested by her uncle … Despite her withdrawn nature she smiles easily, and enjoys the company of other children. After receiving LSD on three occasions earlier this month, Marie ceased smiling at all and lost any interest in others her age … In the past week, she seems to have become easily agitated and has lost any interest in reading, something she seemed to very much enjoy before treatment.

In a published report on her 196 LSD experiments with 14 “autistic schizophrenic” children, Bender states she initially gave each of the children 25 mcg. of LSD “intramuscularly while under continuous observation.” She writes: “The two oldest boys, over ten years, near or in early puberty, reacted with disturbed anxious behavior. The oldest and most disturbed received Amytal sodium 150 mg. intramuscularly and returned to his usual behavior.” Both boys were then excluded from the experiment.

The 12 remaining children were then given injections of 25 mcg. of LSD and then days later were each given 100 mcg. of LSD once a week. Bender’s report states: “Then it was increased gradually to twice and three times a week as no untoward side-effects were noticed…. Finally, it was given daily and this continued for six weeks until the time of this report.”

Bender’s findings and conclusions concerning her LSD experiments indicated she found the use of the drug promising. Bender reported: “In general, they [the children] were happier; their mood was ‘high’ in the hours following the ingestion of the drug … they have become more spontaneously playful with balls and balloons … their color is rosy rather than blue or pale and they have gained weight.” Bender concluded: “The use of these drugs [LSD, UML-401, UML-491] … will give us more knowledge about both the basic schizophrenic process and the defensive autism in children and also about the reaction of these dilysergic acid derivatives as central and autonomic nervous system stimulants and serotonin antagonists. Hopefully these drugs will also contribute to our efforts to find better therapeutic agents for early childhood schizophrenia.”

In an article published in 1970, Dr. Bender reported on the results of LSD dosing upon “two adolescent boys who were mildly schizophrenic.” She reported that the boys experienced perceptual distortions. They thought the researchers were making faces at them, that their pencils were becoming “rubbery,” and one boy reported the other boy’s face had turned green. The boys began to complain that they were being experimented upon. Even so, Bender and her associate continued the two male adolescents on a regimen of 150 mcg. per day, in divided doses, of LSD. While one of the boys supposedly “benefited very much,” Bender reported that he later returned to the hospital as “a disturbed adult schizophrenic.” The other boy kept complaining that he was being experimented upon and they stopped giving him LSD, not because of the drug’s effects itself, Bender explained, but “because of the boy’s attitude towards it,” which she attributed to “his own psychopathology.”

Dr. Bender’s LSD experiments continued into the late 1960s and, during that time, continued to include multiple experiments on children with UML-401, a little known LSD-type drug provided to her by the Sandoz Company, as well as UML-491, also a Sandoz product. Bender’s reports on her LSD experiments give no indication of whether the parents or legal guardians of the subject children were aware of, or consented to, the experiments. Without doubt, parents or guardians were never informed that the CIA underwrote Bender’s work. Over the years, there have been multiple reports that many of Bender’s subject children were either “wards of the State” or orphans, but the available literature on the experiments reveals nothing on this. The same literature makes it obvious that the children had been confined to the Creedmoor State Hospital for long periods of time and that many, if discharged, needed “suitable homes or placements in the community.” There is also no evidence that any follow-up studies were conducted on any of the children experimented upon by Dr. Bender. Today, Dr. Bender is best known and highly regarded in some circles as the creator of the Bender-Gestalt Test, which measures motor skills in children.

On Bender’s use of LSD on children, Dr. Leon Eisenberg said years later: “She did all sorts of things. Lauretta Bender reached success in her career long before randomized controlled trials had even been heard of. She didn’t see the need for trials of drugs because she was convinced she knew what worked.” (See: “A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers” by Adam Feinstein, Wiley-Blanchard, 2010.) Many other physicians speaking privately were far less diplomatic in condemning Bender’s LSD work, but, still today, many are reluctant to criticize her, and, remarkably, many of the aging stalwarts of the arguable “virtues” and “potential” of LSD continue to cite her work with children as groundbreaking science.

Today, nearly 60 years beyond the horrors of Dr. Bender’s CIA-sponsored experiments on children, few people are aware that they were conducted. For most people, regardless of their awareness of the experiments, it is difficult to fathom how intelligent, highly educated physicians and scientists could partake in such brutal, uncaring, unethical and illegal experiments on children. What was the basis of their motivation? Was it the quest for some sort of elusive medical grail? Was it for economic gain? Or was it simply the result of a misguided search for knowledge that appeared so infinitely important that any sense of compassion and respect for human rights and dignity was cast aside in the name of a higher goal or good – a search at times so exhilarating with the sense that one is at the precipice of a momentous discovery that any semblance of respect for humankind was thrown aside?

One can easily come to any and all these conclusions simply by reading the professional papers of such scientists and researchers. Not once do any of these papers express concern for the subjects at hand or denote any pangs of conscience at violating any oaths, codes and statutes regarding patient rights, human rights or human dignity. That America’s most shameful period of human experimentation, the years 1950 through to about 1979, came on the heels of the making and adoption of the Nuremberg Codes only adds to the shame and hypocrisy. Today, human experimentation is still aggressively conducted by US government-sponsored and employed physicians and scientists regardless of those codes, which came directly out of the shocking madness of the Nazi era. That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok – and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged.

(The names Marion McGill and that of her sister Trudy, are pseudonyms. Marion is a highly respected attorney and college professor, who asked that her real name not be used in this article. All other names in this article are real.)

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