These days, Ritalin, Adderall and Prozac are all household names. The public has come to a point where we understand just how serious Depression, ADHD and Anxiety can be and the mental health community has responded with numerous forms of therapy and medication. Many of us have, or know someone who has, tried some form of drug to address these mental health issues. But the prevalence of psychotropic drug use by one particular demographic has many concerned.
Over the past couple of decades, the use of psychotropic drugs by children and teenagers has soared. This raises a number of questions for parents, teachers and doctors to consider. Does this indicate some sort of societal ill that is devastating the mental health of our youth? According to U.S. government statistics, 5-20% of kids in the U.S. are believed to have some form of mental health disorder, with the 5% referring to “extreme functional impairment” and 20% referring to children with “at least minimum” impairment.
Have we just been duped by the pharmaceutical industry? Some argue that many of the children in that 20% mentioned above are just being kids and only need some behavioral intervention. But parents of children taking these medications often disagree. They say that medication was the absolute last resort. Many doctors say they aren’t eager to implement that kind of strategy either. They tell stories of parents “begging” for prescriptions when nothing else has worked and they fear for their child’s life.
For foster kids, the data is even more worrisome. Here’s a short 20/20 segment on the issue:
According to the Associated Press, foster kids are prescribed psychotropic drugs “2.7 to 4.5 times more than non-foster children and often at much higher doses.” These children are often prescribed several different medications at a time, some of which aren’t FDA approved for their age and/or shouldn’t be mixed with other medications. Some child psychiatrists argue that although medication won’t necessarily solve all of a patient’s problems, it sometimes is a necessary “stop-gap measure” to prevent the child from hurting themselves or others. But as Judith Warner, author of “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication”, suggests:
…stop-gap measures are meant to lead to deeper, more meaningful solutions. In the case of these children, such solutions would not only mean treatment with evidence-based therapy (a tall order) but also finding a home with stable, loving and attentive parents, support from both nurturing and highly-skilled teachers, good nutrition, high-quality health care and a whole host of wraparound services aimed at healing the wounds and deficits from their early years and putting them on track to living better lives.
So what’s happening here? Are we taking the easy route and addressing a complex problem with a quick fix? Is the problem even more complex than we yet realize? Leave a comment below and let us know what your thoughts are on the issue. If you’re a parent with first-hand experience with this issue, we’d love to hear from you! Share your experiences with ADHD Treatments.
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