Actress Juliette Lewis visits Capitol Hill today to sell Congress on the nationwide effort -- spearheaded by the Church of Scientology -- to stop educational authorities from requiring "problem" schoolchildren to take mood-altering medication.
"This is not a Scientology thing, but there are Scientologists involved," said the 29-year-old Lewis, who joined the church seven years ago after reading a Scientology text "and it was really logical. I was 22, and at the time I could really use it."
Before boarding her flight from Los Angeles yesterday, Lewis told The Post's Anne Schroeder: "We are against putting people on drugs to help solve problems." James H. Scully, medical director of the American Psychiatric Association, responded that "children do suffer from mental illness," and while "no one should prescribe medicine other than a physician, and only after a thorough evaluation," drugs can help in many cases.
Lewis said she got involved in the anti-pharmaceutical campaign in 1999. "Everyone was really upset due to Columbine and the other violent crimes that popped up afterward," she said. "The media started looking at entertainment media and blaming them -- which was an oversimplified explanation. So I became curious."
She read articles about violent and nonviolent side effects of psychiatric drugs on children. "Ritalin, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft and numerous others all have negative side effects," Lewis asserted. "Roughly 8 million kids are on psychiatric drugs and the known side effects" include "suicides and manic episodes. You're talking about thousands upon thousands with that possibility. That's a scary figure."
Maybe as scary as "Cape Fear," the 1991 thriller that made Lewis a star, or "Cold Creek Manor," a fall release in which she co-stars with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone. Given Scientology's influence in Hollywood, has it helped her career? "No. I don't look at it that way," Lewis answered. "It's helped me personally, but not necessarily professionally. The two can go together but that's not what I look to Scientology for."
And which is harder -- lobbying Congress or breaking up with Brad Pitt? "That's the worst thing I've ever heard!" Lewis said good-naturedly about her long-ago beau. "Everything is seen as being so tragic when you're young, but they're completely two different things! I'm really passionate about what I'm fighting for, and I don't mind talking to politicians about it."