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November 23, 2006

The Drugging of America

The NYT features an article on kids who take drug cocktails to deal with their "mental health problems." At what point will drug-happy doctors stop prescribing drugs that comatose our kids and start Treating Them With Therapy and Other Non-Invasive Treatments?!?!

While I don't know what it's like to have attention deficit disorder, I do know that cocktails of drugs that stunt growth and mental capacity are not the way to fix the problem of employment sucking away parents' ability to parent their children. I can accept that in rare cases young children may need a single psychiatric drug (though I would never use one on my hypothetical children), but there is zero scientific evidence that three or more horse pills will help little Johnny function better. Why do we rush to drugs without even trying other forms of treatment? Do people really believe in magic pills? Don't they understand that psychiatrists still don't know how most of these drugs even work?

This position is a tad hard for me to take. I should give full disclosure and admit that I did take anti-depressants in college. I've even had doctors tell me that I should be on them for the rest of my life. And I can accept that as the right path for some adults. But these harsh chemicals that we're throwing down the throats of innocent, prepubescent children is horrific. It is beyond the pale - much worse than the simplistic notion of Prozac Nation.

The fact of the matter is that our society, our education system, our family structures, our lives are not structured in a way that is conducive to mental health. Starting with the US "healthcare" system - visits with drug pushers are more likely to be covered than visit to talk therapists. Alternative medicine is rarely covered. Activities such as yoga, massage, and life coaching are generally available only to the wealthy. Instead of being open to variety, the No Child Left Behind Act ensures that schools are getting more rigid in their approaches to "teaching," leaving less time for imagination or a way in for kids who are not motivated by Scantron tests. High divorce rates, increasing economic pressure for both parents to work outside the home, and over-indulgence of children has led us to need British t.v. nannies and Psychiatrists to keep our children behaved.

The article was so difficult to read.

Ms. Kehoe, who receives government financial and child-care assistance because her children are considered mentally ill, said she knew that there were risks to the drug cocktails. Both her sons are short and underweight for their age -- a common side effect of stimulants -- and she fears that the drugs have affected their health and behavior in other ways.

"But I don't think the insurance would pay for it if the F.D.A. didn't decide that children should use it," said Ms. Kehoe, who herself takes psychiatric medication.

[emphasis added]

Seriously. Do people have that much trust in insurance companies and the FDA that they're willing to risk their children's lifelong health? That quote has plagued me since I read it several hours ago in the print version of the paper. I don't know how we get from complete reliance on Big Brother to a healthy balance between drug therapy and other therapy for mental health problems, but we've got to start.

Happy Thanksgiving.

full article: "Proof Is Scant on Psychiatric Drug Mix for Young," by Gardiner Harris

Posted by cj at November 23, 2006 9:34 PM


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