Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our Nation of Hypocritical Ritalin-Pushers

This is an interesting little bit of transcript from the Canadian Parliament proceedings this week between Libby Davies, New Democratic Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, and Tony Clement, Conservative Health Minister...

Davies: Mr. Speaker, yesterday B.C.'s Supreme Court decision makes it abundantly clear that Insite, the supervised injection facility in east Vancouver, is a health facility. The ruling also makes it clear that closing Insite would be "inconsistent with the state's interest in fostering individual and community health and preventing death and disease". Can the Minister of Health assure the House today that his Conservative government will abide by the court's decision and not appeal this important case.

Clement: Mr. Speaker, I am not in charge of appeals. That is the Minister of Justice. But I can say to the House that on this side of the House at least we are disappointed with the judgment. We disagree with the judgment. We are, of course, examining our options and I would say to the House that we on this side of the House care about treating drug addicts who need our help. We care about preventing people, especially our young people, from becoming drug addicts in the first place. That is our way to reduce harm in our society and we are proud of taking that message to the people of Canada.

Davies: Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Health claims that he cares about people who use drugs and the issues they face, then he will respect the decision of the court. The medical, scientific and now legal conclusions just could not be any clearer. Insite is a life-saving facility and harm reduction is an essential component of Canada's drug strategy. When will the minister put aside his personal ideological position, respect the court's decision and get to work on changing Canada's drug laws to allow access to health facilities such as Insite? When is he going to do that? He is taking too long.

Clement: Mr. Speaker, it is a bit rich for the member from the New Democratic Party to start lecturing us on ideological positions. That is its bread and butter over there, but we on this side of the House are here for public policy. We are here to help our kids, prevent them from getting on drugs in the first place. We are here to help addicts. is amusing to hear Mr. Clement talk about keeping kids off of drugs for the obvious reason, that being the always cheap political tactic to use fear-based emotional strategies aimed at paternalism towards helpless children. The other, more significant point of amusement is that until 2006, Mr. Clement held a 25% stake in Prudential Chemical Inc., a pharmaceutical company.

This is ironic because pharmaceutical companies can be the most oppressive drug pushers in the world, who particularly prey on vulnerable children. For example, over three million people in America are currently being prescribed Methylphenidate (Ritalin). This coincides with massive diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can be mis-diagnosed on children who exhibit regular behaviours for their age group. Propaganda campaigns claiming that 20-30% of children in America have ADHD are simply a means of spreading fear amongst parents and teachers, and subsequently, selling more Ritalin.

Richard DeGrandpre, author of Ritalin Nation, says that "Ritalin is little more than coke for kids." Furthermore, Nora Volkow and colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory, in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1995, found that "Cocaine has pharmacological actions that are very similar to those of methylphenidate [Ritalin], which is the most commonly prescribed psycho-tropic medication for children in the United States."

We find ourselves in Canada talking about a "war on drugs," and taking an abolitionist standpoint on illicit drugs that are used by people suffering some socio-economic poverty -- meanwhile, the same Health Minister who has this ill-informed view while fully supporting pharmaceuticals, which prey on the fear of parents but do appeal to a more affluent, upper-class demographic. Could it be possible that the "war on drugs" is really just another attempt by the wealthy to keep an "undesirable" segment of the populous under control?

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Health really care about helping addicts, would he rather support a system that creates prescription-drug addicts?

NOTE: As far as I can from searching their product listing, Prudential does not deal in Methylphenidate. And of course, ADHD is properly diagnosed in many cases, and Ritalin has indeed been helpful in those cases.