LOOKING FOR "EARLY SCHIZOPHRENIA" IN CHILDREN
MAY INCREASE RISK OF IATROGENIC POLYPHARMACY
(c) 12/8/99 Ian Williams Goddard
The New York Times (12/7/99)  reports that a possible new psychiatric diagnostic agenda for children may be to identify "early warning signs" of schizophrenia that are to be treated with antipsychotic drugs. Research funded in part by the drug company Eli Lilly is attempting to see if antipsychotic drugs can reduce the incidence of full-blown schizophrenia if given to "high-risk" subjects while they are still children. With the ability to cause permanent brain damage and disfiguring conditions such as tardive dyskinesia, antipsychotic drugs, also known as neuroleptics, are the most harmful psychiatric drugs. 
Also of concern regarding an "early schizophrenic" focus in childhood diagnosis is that the drug Ritalin, which is being prescribed to millions of children, is known to produce symptoms that mimic schizophrenia.  One drug study even found that Ritalin "induces a psychopathology that seems to mimic schizophrenic psychosis more closely than that induced by amphetamines and cocaine."  About the ability of psychostimulants such as Ritalin to mimic symptoms of schizophrenia, Peter Breggin, M.D., states:
"All of the stimulants, including Cylert, can cause psychoses that mimic schizophrenia... These druginduced psychoses look so much like schizophrenia that a strong argument has been made that stimulant abuse sometimes causes 'chronic schizophrenia.'(43)" 
Since doctors often prescribe multiple drugs (polypharmacy), and since an illness treated by one drug may be caused by another (iatrogenic polypharmacy), the potential exists that Ritalin-induced schizophrenia might be treated with even more dangerous mind-altering drugs. As Breggin observes: "Because Ritalin is promoted as relatively free of adverse effects, the development of a severe mental disturbance can be mistaken for the surfacing of further 'mental illness.'" 
The potential for iatrogenic polypharmacy could arise as a result of any "early schizophrenia treatment" agenda unless all doctors are aware of all adverse effects of stimulants and are willing to take a child off them to see if symptoms subside before they risk prescribing potentially braindamaging neuroleptics, and yet psychosis has been reported during withdrawal from long-term Ritalin use.  Chances are some doctors will drug first and ask questions later.
Quoted below are excerpts from a study that found Ritalin
produced a dose-dependent dysfunction in nonschizophrenics
that "'mimics' schizophrenic psychopathology." The range of
doses in the study intersects Ritalin's therapeutic range.
The study used Ritalin to test a hypothesis about the nature
of an on-set schizophrenic dysfunction. The fact that Ritalin
(methylphenidate) was chosen reflects the fact that it is a
drug of choice for modeling schizophrenic psychopathology.
Here then are important excerpts from that study:
Methylphenidate-Induced Information Processing Dysfunction in Nonschizophrenic Patients David L. Braff, MD, Leighton Huey, MD Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093. "Schizophrenic patients have significant deficits in a wide range of attentional and information processing tasks. It is hypothesized that catecholamine (eg, dopamine) overactivity may induce and that antipsychotic medications may reverse these attentional deficits." ... "This experiment was designed to test whether systemic administration of the dopamine agonist methylphenidate hydrochloride [Ritalin], in nonschizophrenic patients, would induce an information processing dysfunction similar to the dysfunction typically seen in schizophrenic patients in the visual backward masking task." "These results show that methylphenidate, which increases central catecholaminergic activity, induces dose-dependent deficits in information processing similar to those seen in schizophrenic patients. ...this experiment used a combination of psychophysical tasks and pharmacological probes and is a novel illustration of how stimulant challenges can induce the type of information processing dysfunction seen in schizophrenic spectrum patients." ... "...the higher dose of methylphenidate induced significantly more information processing disruption, indicating a dose-dependant effect that needs further investigation." [IAN: The low dose in this study was 0.5 mg/kg, the high dose was 1 mg/kg, oral. Typical therapeutic doses of Ritalin range from .3 to .7 mg/kg ] "...we assume that normal humans operate at a highly efficient threshold level for many attentional operations, so that even modest impairments of these critical functions can result in cognitive or symptomatic impairment. ... In this context, our drug treatment effect represents a striking, methylphenidate-induced impairment of the normal mechanisms by which information is processed in humans." ... "[M]ethylphenidate, possibly through its aminergic- enhancing properties, 'mimics' schizophrenic psychopathology by inducing specific, time- linked backward visual masking abnormalities." ===================================================STUDY ABSTRACT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/htbinpost /Entrez/query?uid=2901251&form=6&db=m&Dopt=b
 Should the use of neuroleptics be severely limited? Peter Breggin, MD: http://breggin.com/neuroleptics.html
 Studies cited showing Ritalin can mimic and increase schizophrenia: http://www.erols.com/igoddard/conyers.htm
 Journal of Pharmacology and Experiment Therapeutics: Inhibition of methylphenidate-induced behaviors in rats: differences among neuroleptics. Koek W, Colpaert FC 1993 Oct;267(1):181-91.
 Talking Back To Ritalin. By Peter R. Breggin, MD. page 18. The reference cited in the Breggin quote is: Flaum M., & Schultz S. K. (1996) When does amphetamineinduced psychosis become schizophrenia? American Journal of Psychiatry. 153(6), 812-5.
 Ibid., page 17. http://www.breggin.com/prbbooks.html
 American Journal of Psychiatry: Depression and psychotic regression following prolonged methylphenidate use and withdrawal: case report. Rosenfeld AA. 1979 Feb;136(2):226-8.
 On Visual Backwards Masking Paradigm Tasking: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/CAL/cab.html#BackMask On Visual Masking Deficits In Schizophrenic Patients: http://www.appi.org/ajp/dec96/ajp12toc.html#AJPdec96-9
 Typical Starting Dosage...of Some ADHD Medications http://lib-sh.lsumc.edu/fammed/intern/adhdmeds.html
(Web posted: http://www.erols.com/igoddard/polyrisk.htm)