As a child, Jacob did everything right. He went to the best schools, had the best grades, and made it to the best universities. Soon enough Jacob became Dr. Yaakov Ophir—a licensed clinical psychologist and a promising young scholar at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. With over than 20 scientific articles (in English) and dozens of media interviews (in Hebrew), Dr. Ophir flew safely towards the promising land of academia. All this was true until he accidentally stepped on a land mine. Following the diagnosis of his first-born son with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), seven years ago, he started investigating the origins and scientific validity of this common childhood diagnosis, and what he found changed his life. Literally.
Dr. Ophir discovered masses of cracks in the ruling medical narrative, blatant conflicts of interests, and really odd cover up practices that did not align with what he thought science was all about. For him, the word ‘science’ used to have a sacred connotation. Academia was a temple for truth and integrity. So he decided to share his revelations with the world. Little did he know that he was waking up a brutal monster.
Full disclosure, Dr. Ophir is a close friend of mine. Still, I promise to tell his story as it happened. I remember vividly the personal defamations and vicious attacks he absorbed three years ago, when we first met. Dr. Ophir dared to depart from the consensus’ warm nest and voice his thought-provoking critique about ADHD and its medications (Ritalin, Adderall, and the like) and was immediately accused of being a pseudoscientist and a danger to the public.
“It felt like someone stripped me from my professional and academic titles and punched me directly in the stomach”, he reminded me when interviewed him recently about his newly published book on this topic. Truth be told, I did not really need this reminder. I was there when Dr. Ophir was ‘punched in the stomach’, long before he became the acknowledged author of the “comprehensive rebuttal of the scientific consensus about ADHD”. But when he told me this story again, I cringed like the very first time I heard it.
“They actually went after my license”, he said with a burdened sigh. “I was a young psychologist and suddenly I received a formal warning letter from the Israeli Ministry of Health. This letter said that a notable expert in the field has filed a complaint in which she accuses me of distorting science and misleading the public. It was really scary. Back then, I was not aware that this bullying practice is common. I was worried that I was going to lose my license along with my other academic credentials. You probably remember that I did anticipate some clash with the system, but I wasn’t prepared for such a battle for professional life and death”.
“But what were their arguments”? I asked Dr. Ophir. “On what grounds did they go after your license”? “You should read the letter yourself” he answered. “Its language is preposterous. I could not believe a respected scientist wrote it. It was superficial, hostile, and full of factual mistakes as if it was written by an angry child who had his favorite game taken away from her. The complaining expert did not provide any substantiative response to the scientific gaps I raised in my articles. Instead, she distorted contents from my writings and put words in my mouth, which I never said. It was really unbelievable. The complaint letter presented quotes by Dr. Ophir using formal quotation marks, but these quotes were never written by me in any of my articles! I told the Ministry of Health: ‘This is really easy. Just copy these quotes and look them up in my articles. You’ll see they do not exist’”.
“But if we put aside the violent style of this complaint”, I insisted, “did you ever stop to think whether your views are indeed dangerous? Can it really be that so many ADHD experts are wrong”? “I had no choice but to ask myself these critical questions”, Dr. Ophir admits in pain. “The intimidating letter from the Ministry of Health forced me to sit down and read tons of literature. I had to answer these unfounded accusations and I had to be sure that I am giving my readers as accurate and as reliable scientific information as possible. In a strange way, I have to thank the expert who filed the complaint. Her letter boosted my scientific endeavors in this field. Following her complaint, I shifted my efforts from the public sphere to the professional and scientific realms. I initiated my own research and critical reviews on this matter, and I gathered tremendous amount of knowledge, which eventually led to the publication of this full-length scientific book.”
The book Dr. Ophir talks about is quite remarkable. The title of the book says it all. ADHD is Not an Illness and Ritalin is Not a Cure: A Comprehensive Rebuttal of the (alleged) Scientific Consensus. “The consensus is an illusion” he explains. “That’s why I had to add the word ‘alleged’ in the title. There is a longstanding and intense debate about this matter. ADHD experts are well aware of this plain historical fact, but if you dare to challenge the validity of the disorder or the legitimacy of its first-line pharmacological treatment, they will deny the very existence of the controversy. This is a sophisticated form of gaslighting. No wonder critics of ADHD are labeled crazy. But we have to break free from this cuckoo’s nest. We cannot allow ourselves to surrender to scientific tyranny.
“You are well aware of the fact that every second, or third, household in the US has a child that can be given this invented diagnosis of ADHD. You know all too well that so many parents intuitively feel that something is wrong—either that their children are perfectly healthy, or that they should not be medicated with such powerful drugs. These parents face extreme pressure to comply with the medical and the educational systems and they are subjected to the same gaslighting methods. They are being led to believe that their children have a biochemical imbalance in their brain, which should be managed medically every day, like eyeglasses. I am aware that what I am about to say might sound a bit naïve, but I feel that if these parents just read my book, they could use it as a scientific sword in their battle against the system; in their battle for the welfare of their children.”
“But your book is essentially a scientific piece. Can lay parents derive insights from such a professional book”? I asked Dr. Ophir. “You’re right”, he answered, “but my imaginary audiences while writing this book, were always my fellow parents who were surprised to find out, like I was six years ago, that their normal children have a ‘lifelong disorder of the brain’. Of course, I had to adhere to academic norms and scientific rigor, but I did everything in my power to make the science available to most readers using plain language and real-life stories”.
I know. My friendship with Dr. Ophir doesn’t allow me to be a neutral judge of his book. Nevertheless, I must share that my reading of his book flew effortlessly like a sparrow. I was captured by the book’s rhythm and authenticity from its very first opening tale, and I was fascinated by its brilliant structure and sharp, yet plain wisdom. His book, of course, does not aim to replace a private consultation with a mental health professional, but it opens the door to information that is being deliberately hidden from us. The book reveals, for example, that science had never provided convincing evidence that medications for ADHD are effective in the long-term. On the contrary, prolonged use of these popular medications is quite dangerous.
Essentially, what Dr. Ophir does in this book is to expose the numerous scientific holes that exist in the dogmatic theory about ADHD and to uncover the poor ‘bandages’ that were pasted carelessly to hide these holes. “When you take school demands out of the equation”, he says, “you see that ADHD is not an illness. In the vast majority of cases, it is a completely normative trait that has, like all other human traits, both pros and cons”.
I was therefore not at all surprised to read the scholarly reviews the book received. Cognitive neuroscientist Professor Emeritus Richard Silberstein from Swinburne University judged it to be “one of the most important books on the topic of ADHD that has been published in the last 30 years”. Thom Hartman, the American public intellectual, viewed this book as “an absolute masterpiece, a work that should be in the hands of every clinician in America”. Finally, Professor Sami Timimi, the influential British psychiatrist, stole my own thoughts: “Dr. Ophir shows the forensic skills of a scientist and the writing skills of a storyteller… He writes with wit, insight, and a deep humanity and compassion for the lives of young people… It is a must read for anyone interested in this topic… Whether it’s a parent, a person with the diagnosis, a teacher, or a professional in the mental health field, everyone will get something valuable from taking the time to read this wonderful book”.
And here are my own two cents based on my own experience with scientific and medical discourse: When immense forces are directed at silencing scientists, it is often a sign that those should-be-silenced scientists have something terribly important to tell us. And if some scientists are willing to risk their good name and fly over the consensus’ nest, it doesn’t mean that they went crazy. It probably means that freedom of thought is in danger, and that it is our sacred duty to restore and cherish it.
The response by Dr. Ophir to the complaint letter: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Tk4_IMDIkhrL5unI82OYc6yEQ8pu6A8d/view?usp=sharing
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Good stuff! I’d read the book myself if I didn’t think it’d give me rage overload. I was surprised as well once when I read an academic psychiatrist’s response letter to Johann Haari’s book ‘lost connections,’ which reports on some of the research suggesting psychosocial causes of depression, as well as the limited utility of antidepressants and the probable emptiness of the serotonin hypothesis. The letter was a straight up ad hominem assault, and a shameless appeal to authority that touched on none of the research Haari covered. Why WOULDN’T academic psychiatrists WANT to know about this research, I wondered? I was bewildered — why would people who specialize in the ‘biology’ of depression NOT want to know about psychosocial factors and how this ‘biology’ might reflect psychosocial influences? And why would they defame someone who wanted to talk about it? I was quite naive then, I think, I did not know that ad hominem and appeals to invented authority are the stock in trade of psychiatry when its ‘heritable diseases of the brain’ and ‘safe and effective drugs’ are questioned and shown to reflect a more complex issue than the public has been led to believe. It still baffles me that these kinds of practices permeate something like science and medicine. I question myself sometimes, how can this be? But as we both know, this is the landscape. As an aside my parents were on quite the opposite end from parents you mentioned. They went to psychiatrists IN ORDER to get us diagnosed, because they were struggling with us as parents and were explicitly looking for a reason to place the family disfunction squarely in their children’s brains. They would go to the psychiatrist and give him all of their complaints about the things they didn’t like about us and ask what was wrong with us. We didn’t even go into the guys office really. The result? My brother and I were on rittalin, and I ended up hallucinating multicolored spiders crawling all over my bedroom, while his mental state deterioriated and he was eventually put on antipsychotics as a child, which as we all know sets you up for dopamine supersentitivity when you come off of it, which has resulted in psychoses he probably never would have had before, and therefore lifetime addiction to antipsychotics.
Anyway great piece thanks!
Thank you for sending this detailed and encouraging response. It is heartwarming
Thank you for an outstanding article.
It’s heartening to know that Dr. Ophir’s book is receiving such positive scholarly reviews. I hope his bravery encourages others like him to speak out against the institutional gaslighting not only surrounding ADHD, but all the other scientifically baseless “diagnoses” that constitute the fallacious field of psychiatry. And I sincerely believe it’s only a matter of time before it collapses from the weight of its own lies.
Thank you I hope you are right.
Dear Dr. Ophir,
There’s now a fighting chance—thanks to people like you—for which I’m eternally grateful.
And as word of your book gets out among the general public, I seriously believe you’ll find way more allies than foes.
Thank you for fighting the good fight, Dr. Ophir. I wish you all the best from now on in your truth-telling quest.
Thank you 🙂 I wish I knew how to tell the world about my book.
Never underestimate the power of the internet, and M.IA. is a good place to start.
Yaffa, thank you for this excellent article. I very much look forward to reading this book. I commend Dr. Ophir for the courage to apply a rigorous scientific perspective to this controversial topic. I would say this topic is only controversial because professions and the pharmaceutical industry have yoked themselves to a particular story of ADHD (it’s a valid brain-based mental illness that is effectively treated by stimulant medication that acts on the biological basis of the illness) that lines up poorly with the actual scientific evidence. In theory, rigorous science should matter most but that unfortunately is not how the world of psychiatric diagnoses and treatments work. Those of us who have inhabited this space for a long time wouldn’t be at all surprised to what has happened to Dr. Ophir. Along these lines, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the complaint filed by that “notable expert in the field” was ghostwritten by an author affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry. The experience of psychiatric David Healy shows the lengths to which the psychiatry/pharma partnership is mobilized to stalk, harass, and discredit academics whose work threatens the public credibility of psychiatric drugs (https://davidhealy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2008-Healy-Academic-Stalking.pdf).
Thank you very much Brett
“It felt like someone stripped me from my professional and academic titles and punched me directly in the stomach.”
That’s largely how it feels when you’re defamed with a DSM stigmatization.
It was “full of factual mistakes as if it was written by an angry child who had his favorite game taken away from her.”
Yes, that’s largely what my medical records read as. Albeit, that’s because I was dealing with doctors who wanted to profiteer off of covering up easily recognized malpractice, and medical evidence of the sexual assault of my very young child.
“The complaining expert did not provide any substantiative response to the scientific gaps I raised in my articles. Instead, she distorted contents from my writings and put words in my mouth, which I never said. It was really unbelievable.”
That’s who and what the psychological and psychiatric industries are, and what they do. It’s called gas lighting.
“They are being led to believe that their children have a biochemical imbalance in their brain, which should be managed medically every day.”
“When immense forces are directed at silencing scientists, it is often a sign that those should-be-silenced scientists have something terribly important to tell us. And if some scientists are willing to risk their good name and fly over the consensus’ nest, it doesn’t mean that they went crazy. It probably means that freedom of thought is in danger, and that it is our sacred duty to restore and cherish it.”
And destroying independence and freedom of thought is exactly what psychology and psychiatry are all about.
But good … some scientists are finally garnering insight into the scientific fraud, lies, and games so many psychologists and psychiatrists play.
Thank you for sharing your experience and insights, Dr. Shir-Raz. I think we’re all on an awakening journey. And we all need to work together to bring about a better world.
I couldnt agree more 🙂
Great article. Can we have English versions of the complaint letter and response.
I assume it is possible (though my response to the letter is 10-page long).
Do you think it is important it will have a published English version? Can you please explain why? Feel free to contact me in person. My email is: [email protected]
Is there a way to access the letters? For some reason the access to view the letters is being denied.
Perhaps some of the response to your support for Dr. Ophir is the language and that also of being challenged to write in way that advances the argument to the point, shaped by being rooted in Judaism. Locally, in attending a class sponsored by Chabad at the Jewish Community Center, the use of a beautiful and insightful book, from the JLI titled Book Smart, “Exploring Judaism’s Most Important Titles and the Authors Who Inscribed Them” in the 5th Chapter advances the idea of Musar and Jewish Philosophy. In the heading under “The Pitfalls of Anger”, from Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Character 2-3 part of the influence that is surfacing in the layered responses of this discourse conveys concerns that are woven into the practice of “science” that in and of itself is changing. The requisite paradigm needed is more of being cool while advancing the arguments by which then the Whole, the Lights can come on for not just one particular sheet in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, that we as customers have come to realize serious shortcomings, but the whole. Too many lives are being lost and the Justice to bring into better healing/recovery challenges the economies by which the business of mental health care operates. In this sense, are we at a point no less than Cardinal Bellarmine and Galileo or Bruno and the Catholic Church. Seems to me there is a serious need for some serious apologies and structural shifts by which health can be realized in terms of Love and Respect. Just one voice added to the scales!
I know that lead exposure can induce hyperactivity, although I rarely see it mentioned in “ADHD” literature, despite lead sources still being aplenty. I suspect there are other environmental sources of similar chemicals around, in addition to the usual suspects.
Low iron and sleep apnea or other sleep problems are also frequently implicated but almost never mentioned.
I find the story of what Yaakov Ophir has already achieved most immensely heartening and inspiring, and all the more so because, much like Robert Whitaker, he appears to have accomplished so much by refusing to allow himself to become embittered and instead showing us all how much more can be accomplished by remaining resolutely positive and trusting that the facts, the truth, when we carefully unearth it, can and will do all that is required.
As far as the iron goes, Steve, I presume you mean in those menstruating? Perhaps you can point us to data, please?
As for sleep problems, you persuaded me to google “Bucky Fuller’s sleeping patterns” to read about his “Dymaxion sleep schedule.” etc. Some say it was in deference to his wife, others to his business associates that he gave up his habit of sleeping for 30 minutes every six hours, round the clock. It seems Bucky perceived a falling off in his focus after some ?five-and-a-half to six hours of work…
My hunch would be that if a dietary deficiency of any metal were to play an extensive role in lowering Americans’ consciousness levels, it might more likely be one of magnesium than of iron, and, whole I know of no relevant connection between Fe and Mg, although a possible one between Mg and Li (lithium), I doubt if dietary deficiencies often come singly.
I suspect that we will one day discover that the very greatest cause of Americans’ exhibiting impatience and relatively short attention spans/poor focus will turn out to be iatrogenic: we will realize that folks no longer try to remain as steadfastly focused on any lesson or task once they have been labeled or decided that they “have ADHD” or “are ADHD.”
One great thing about our “ADHD epidemic,” I hope, may be that it provides a wonderful lens through which to view other “mental disorders,” and a key tool to help dismantle them – all.
You know how Asperger’s seems to have evolved from being “a disorder/disability” to becoming “a syndrome”…to becoming “a spectrum?”
Well, how hard is it to see that human beings’ patience, focus, motivation/attention spans and powers of concentration naturally vary from those of folks like Bucky towards one end of a spectrum or continuum to those of panicking students convinced that they have or are “a really severe case of ADHD” towards the other end?
And can similar not be said of “mood swings/bipolar,” “hopelessness/depression,” and “fearfulness/anxiety,” for examples?
While any such patterns of behavior may be prompted or exacerbated by real, underlying, organic diseases, nutrient imbalances etc., who is qualified, and how, to draw a precise line at any point on any continuum for any individual at any time?
If neither their own medical colleagues nor court judges will step up and judge the judges, the self-appointed arbiters of “normal human thinking and behavior,” then who will judge the judges, or guard the guards?
Well, brave and determined men and women like Yaakov and Yaffa and Bob Whitaker, obviously.
And, of what an unimaginably braver and happier new world we must inhabit as more of us find it within us to follow their shining examples.
Heartfelt and soulfelt thanks for this most magnificent story to Yaffa and to Yaakov, to you, Steve, and to MIA.
Comfort and joy.
All very well said.
RE: iron deficiency and “ADHD”:
“The lower the levels of ferritin — a protein found inside cells that store iron — the more severe the symptoms. A small study, published in Pediatric Neurology, showed that symptoms improved when iron-deficient children with ADHD took an iron supplement.”
This is from ADDitude Magazine, hardly a bunch of antipsychiatry rebels!
Of course, some “true believers” try to claim that “ADHD reduces iron levels!” No accounting for human stupidity, I guess.
Steve, thanks a million for that!
At Minutes 3:37-6:37 of this,
Ken maps an epidemic of something, while reminding us that humorlessness may remain the only aspect of our human experience which we need never fear professionals will attempt to psychopathologize. Mind you, as long as they cannot satisfactorily define our “psyches,” it’s rather wonderful that they can tell which ones are “pathological.”
From Minute 52:17 and especially 54:17 (and possibly up to about Min 60, especially) of this,
Ken speaks of “ADHD,” as he does
at Minute 3:37-6:37 of this,
And, even if you have watched it often before, you may like to review Minutes 14:17 – 17:20 of Ken’s first TED talk,
Perhaps the greatest contribution the late, great Ken has bequeathed us all is his endless demonstrations of the unifying power of humor, the healing power of laughter and his endless reminders that we, all of us, all our children and successors (and maybe all our ancestors, too) are all always in all this together, and that our only true foe is fear, and then only until we all help one another over it, together?
But to get desperately forgetful and therefore serious and humorless and therefore stupid again, even if in an attempt to help us regain our sense of humor and of perspective and prevent us poisoning our kids any longer than we are destined to (yeah: I happen to believe that, any Creator of this cosmos presumably being a self-respecting sort of a one, She probably created this the best of all possible or impossible worlds, all often seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, so we will remain forgetful, humorless and stupid no longer than we need to), as far as trace elements/minerals/metals go, at least according to this,
the prevalence in adolescent males is – meaning that the prevalence of the diagnosis of “ADHD” was – more than three times that of the prevalence in adolescent females.
If none of those females was receiving an iron supplement, then that would rather contradict what is said in your link and in this,
obviously, whereas if all the females but none of the males were supplemented, then it might support the idea that lower ferritin levels in boys/all kids are associated with poorer school performances by those boys/kids. As females are likely to be supplemented more often, but also perhaps to be deficient more often than males, though, who knows?
Notably, that above NIH paper omits pointing out that serum magnesium levels are a notoriously unreliable measurement of the true Mg status on any individual, a point emphatically made at Minute 1:04-1:44 here,
Then again, this,
further complicates things.
And all that aside, my own hunch would be that that diets producing iron deficiencies tend to be lacking in Mg and in Zn also, and that the former is suspect # 1 when it comes to the frequency of adverse effects on cognition…at least in the US.
I cannot be alone in sensing that there has to be more behind the growing North American (Type 2) diabetes epidemic than obesity/high carbohydrate diets/lack of exercise alone
However, an understandable, predictable intensifying deficiency of trace elements such as Mg, Fe and Zn might help explain this a lot?
If so, any work done to find associations between poorer-than-expected school performances and diets lacking in trace elements might find that blood/brain glucose levels and/or brain trace mineral levels may be involved on a wide scale…and might prove immensely rewarding for society in general, all age groups included?
And then, as you say, there is the question of sleep, and of early school starts for adolescents…
Steve, thanks a million again to you and to everyone at MIA for the incalculable good you all do, and apologies if I am overworking you.
Rest ye merry, all.