The Purpose of the Film
The documentary The Drugging of Our Children by Gary Null touches several problems of the medical and the educational systems that seem to cooperate with each other during the last years. The author’s purpose is to make an accent on the unexpected influence of psychotropic drugs on the children in the United States. He tells the authority that it is necessary to avoid medical treatment if it is not needed for the nation to be healthy both mentally and physically. The emphasis goes on how the educational establishments cooperate with the so-called helping professions and pharmaceutical companies in promoting strong drugs rather than preventing real sicknesses and helping people. The documentary also shows how desperate the ordinary people can become in front of the power of the government that helps all the system work and pretends not to notice how harmful the results turn out to be because of its profit.
The documentary contains several real-life stories from different families who faced similar problems connected with the prescription of powerful drugs to the children and the ways of overcoming them. In each of the cases, it was possible to avoid taking medications. There are also a number of medicine doctors and the author himself whose point of view stands against drugging the children who do not need to be drugged. They appear throughout the documentary and explain how this or that kind of pill can influence or has already influenced the behavior or caused some health disorders. The experts tell the viewers how the system works and how to avoid getting into its web. The first story is about Corey Baadsgaard, who was a normal boy before doctors diagnosed him with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and put him on Ritalin, the strong central nervous system stimulant. Later, the boy was put on the other drug Paxel and he felt relaxed and indifferent to everything. Changing Paxel to Effexor caused bad dreams and hallucinations about gunshots, bears and lions in and out of his room after a while of taking the prescribed pills. On the morning of April 10, 2001, he chose to stay in bed and go to school a bit later, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in a cell with a small window. He had amnesia. People told the boy that he had kept all of his class as hostages for a while, but he could not remember anything like that. Jay Baadsgaard, Corey’s father, blames the doctor for putting his son on the strong drugs without warning about all the side effects, including the out of body experience mental disorder inflicted by the drugs. Another story is about Dane Booth and her six years old son Vincent from California. The boy could not sit still in his chair, and the school teacher said he had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and insisted on his prescribing Ritalin. Dane changed school and the situation repeated. After her denial in medicating her son, the Children Protective Services (CPS) put Vincent into the institution and on Ritalin against the mother’s will. While visiting the boy, she saw bruises all over his body and decided to save her child. Dane silently took Vince to Canada, and he got better soon. However, the FBI searched for the woman for kidnapping, and she got in jail for four months. When the American people started asking the government to let her go, it helped but even after she was released from jail, she still did not know where her child was. There are also stories of Michael Weathers who nearly killed his friend because of a haircut, Eric Harris also known as Columbian shooter who killed a girl and wounded several children at his school, and Luciana Melendez who could not control her emotions and who became so violent that she had to be hospitalized. All these children were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and were prescribed strong drugs like Prozac, Luvox, Ritalin and others that doze by doze caused unexpected side effects on the patients’ brains. Gary Null interviewed a huge number of people including medicine doctors, teachers, mothers, actors, and writers on the subject of his research and added their points of view to the film. He has showed that the convenient side of ADD and ADHD diseases is that it is almost impossible to deny their presence in the brain of a patient and has proved that the pharmaceutical companies created a powerful system that involves the US government, the educational system, the advertising, and the medical establishments. All the involved members still successfully get the profit without noticing the real dangers of such medications.
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Null’s documentary The Drugging of Our Children is an attempt to open the authority’s eyes on the non-requirement of drugging their children only because of their being too active or too quiet. The author uses many useful cinematic techniques to emphasize the things that he wants to enlighten and get felt by the viewers. The movie begins with an example of the direct cinema, and the viewers watch an uncontrolled situation of violent shooting in the school library that was filmed by a school security camera. At the same time, they hear a real conversation during an emergency call to 911 from one of the students from that library. There is no music during the scene, and the viewers can partly feel the emotions of fear and despair of the girl speaking to an operator. They also hear gunshots. Right after that, Corey Baadsgaard starts speaking about being on Ritalin and this cutting makes the viewers feel the connection between these two episodes. The introduction to the main idea is set. Null uses an indirect interview technique as the major one. Doctors, actors, and teachers talk on camera, but the viewers do not hear how the interviewer asks questions and it seems that the speaker talks to the audience directly and tells his or her story directly to the viewers.
The argument of the film is an attempt to persuade the viewers in the necessity of choosing the most appropriate parents’ approach to the life of their children. It means that a parent must not blindly believe that his or her child has some mental disorders just because someone more or less trustful says so. A clever and understanding adult can notice if something is wrong and only after that ask for the help of the specialist.
The argument has a huge validity. Its extent broadens from the viewpoint of the ordinary American people up to the respected medicine doctors like Loren Mesher, David Cohen, Peter Breggin, Fred Baugmen, Mark R. Novick, Daniel G. Namen and others who share the author’s point of view. There were no fallacies, contradictions, or inconsistencies noticed in the argument. The only question remains – if this documentary has any chances to slow down the drugging-machine system or just help the viewers to pay more attention to their children’s way of life.
Null’s viewpoint stands for the alternative ways of controlling the children’s behavior rather than believing in the fact that almost every child in the USA has ADD or ADHD. His tone is stable and persuasive. The intonation varies and sometimes even gets sarcastic like in the scene where he names the children “small adults”. The author uses concrete diction to describe the situations strictly the way he wants the viewers to see them. As an example, there is an episode when Gary Null appears in the movie for the first time and makes a statement that every morning between six and seven billion of children are given Ritalin or other amphetamines. The viewers can feel thrill and hope in his voice and, at the same time, it is very pervasive.
The author uses a big amount of documentary techniques in his movie. One of the most used ones is montage, and the film structure grounds on it. For example, at the beginning, Jane Booth tells how the CPS takes her child away from school and the police officer hurts her when she tries to take the phone. It is interrupted and followed by the personal thoughts of Doctor Ann Blake Tracey. She says that CPS do not protect children anymore; instead of protecting, they come into their homes to put the children on drugs. The montage builds a convenient structure of the movie. It keeps the watchers interested and not bored as the part of one story changes the part of another. The parts complete each other, and the interest helps in understanding the main ideas of the author. In a while, one sees the same characters talking about another part of the research. Every story is accompanied by some pictures that are displayed mainly when a related person is speaking. That is a picture montage. One of the most impressing episodes of picture montage is when Doctor Peter Braggin tells about the fatal cases of prescribing the strong drugs to the children whose organisms could not stand its effect. One can see graves and gravestones there.
There is also a variety of techniques that the author uses widely throughout the movie. Camera movement and background music accompany almost every scene and create the needed atmosphere. Graphics appears several times as the parts’ headings, for example, “Overcoming Behavior Problems without Drugs”. Graphics also include picturing the diagrams and the brain layouts. One can see the symbolic placement of such objects as computers, telephones and diplomas within the frame while watching some of the medicine doctors speaking like for example Daniel G. Amen. Gary Null skillfully operates different types of shots, close-ups, etc.
Another technique is the reenactment. It appears in the story of Lucianne Melendez whose diagnosis was depression. She was put on Prosac by her psychiatrist. It was supposed to give her a boost of energy, but instead, it got her emotions out of control. Lucianne’s story was staged with her as a prior actress and some other people appearing in the frame for the crowd scenes. This technique is applied in order to feel and imagine the events that happened to the girl in the past. The author’s idea here is to show how an unnecessarily prescribed medicine can change the life of an ordinary person for worse, and the reenactment successfully helps him with this mission. As a result, Lucianne was hospitalized after a case of violence on public, but she could not remember acting the way. The girl regrets taking pills and says that every person has ups and downs in his or her life, but it is not necessary to take medicine in every single case. She adds that if she had an opportunity to avoid pills she definitely would. This also reinforces the main idea of Gary Null’s work. One can also see a scene or reenactment in a part of Jane Booth’s story when she tells about the policeman coming into her house without even asking permission and grabbing her leg so hard that the bruise remained.
Archival footage is one of the strongest techniques that Null uses in the movie to answer the question that he asks for the proofs of having ADD or ADHD in a human body. One can see the direct cinema of an official Consensus development conference of 1998 whose aim was to push the diagnosis ADHD and the pills that might cure it. That conference documentary shows that the participants were caught lying and they could not answer the simplest question about diagnosing ADD or ADHD. The author and some other doctors describe this case as the most persuasive in proving that ADD or ADHD is a myth. Moreover, the pills that get prescribed to cure these diseases cause some mental disorders, 10% of brain atrophy or shrinkage and 13 times bigger rate of suicides than any other psychotropic drugs do.
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To summarize, there are children with different mental illnesses who need to be put on special drugs to get well. However, the number of children prescribed with certain psychotropic drugs when it is not necessary nowadays is too big. The hope that people can rebuild their attitude to the unneeded medication and start thinking about healthfulness remains, and this documentary is an attempt to help them. The cinematic techniques are extremely useful in order to help the author share the idea of his work and make the viewers see and feel exactly what he plans. The main idea of the movie becomes easier and more accurate in understanding.