In today's world, the treatment for psychiatric issues in children and adolescents has become more and more dependent on a witches brew of medications. Here's a look at why this practice might just be making the problem worse.
It's a list that will drive your spell check crazy: Depakote, Clozaril, Clonadine, Zyprexa, Neurontin, Cogentin, Focalin, Abilify, Trazodone, Topamax, Buspirone, Ritalin and Risperadol. This is only a partial list of the medications that my son is on or has been on. Many of them have been prescribed more than once and in many different combinations. The results have ranged from leaving him a drooling zombie to turning him into a raging monster that needed to be restrained.
One medication, Ativan, will put him into a psychosis that takes hours to recover from and so it, and the family of drugs it belongs to, are on his banned list. I wish I could say that his experience is unique but far from it. Psychiatrists today, more often than not, take the approach that if they throw enough drugs at the patient they just might get lucky and hit a combination that works. This can have tragic results.
Studies say that over the past 15 years, there has been a 300 percent increase in the use of psychotropic medications with girls and boys under the age of 20, and prescriptions for preschoolers have also skyrocketed. Add to this the fact that the idea that bipolar disorder exists among children and adolescents has been increasingly accepted in recent years, and many young patients have been prescribed mood stabilizers or anti-psychotics. Now many Psychiatrists are asking if the symptoms they're now treating are disease or side-effect. The proliferation of prescriptions has made the distinction hard to discern.
Another issue that's just now beginning to be understood is the long term effects of some anti-psychotics. Scientists are beginning to question how long these medications stay in the brain. Even when patient’s blood test show no traces of the drugs in their system the effects linger in the brain. This leads to patients who are over-prescribed their dosage based on blood work alone.
"The drugs that were sometimes being prescribed twice a day, even three times a day, may be able to be given less frequently, based on these findings," said study co-author Dr. Gary Remington, who is director of the schizophrenia and continuing-care medication-assessment program at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
"It would mean that people could take their medication less frequently and still maintain the same response."
The modern information age is also playing a factor in doctor’s behavior. Parents who are looking for reasons why their children aren't perfect are pressuring doctors to prescribe a magic bullet to make everything right. The internet has opened up the world of medicine to a bunch of amateurs who try and self-diagnose their children. They come into the doctor's office armed with a list of alphabet diagnoses that they hardly understand. ADD, ADHD, PDD, PTSD, ODD and on and on they go. They won't accept the doctor’s diagnoses that their children are just normal children, and so the Doctor gives in and gives them medication just to shut them up. At that point the cycle begins and the child enters what could be a lifetime of stunted thought. The parent is happy and the child is damaged.
This cycle will never end until the Psychiatric field, along with parents and teachers, change their attitudes towards looking for quick fixes. I don't honestly believe there is a sudden wave of juvenile and adolescent mental health problems. Our methods of parenting have changed and led to a more aggressive and ill-behaved group of young people. The problem is in the children’s parents, not their heads. It's time to stop drugging our children and start raising our children right. There are certainly times when medication is necessary; my son is a case in point, but even when the need is there, the prescription hand is far too heavy. Let's try to let our children see their futures with clear, bright eyes.
A very special thanks to Franklin for her help in proofing this story. Her medical expertise is much appreciated.