As this post is piggy-backing on a previous post written by Mariah I will try to keep it brief!
Viewing the video The Medicated Child in class this week made me aware of a potential problem regarding the current state of child psychology. The concept of medicating children at such an early age never really stuck out to me but this video prompted me to spend some time really considering the potential consequences. There are a couple main issues that seem to be at the root of the issue.
1)The most clear flaw in this treatment approach is that medical professionals are prescribing medications which aim at altering the brains of these young children. These brains are still very involved in the process of development and it seems futile as well as dangerous to flood them with potent medications. While I know these are differing concepts to a certain extent I can’t help but relate this to the use of braces in children. If orthodontists avoid fitting children with braces when their mouths are still developing, then why is it that we are quick to prescribe children with developing brains with powerful medications? Are we fully aware how these medications might affect the course of their development? Also, as a child’s brain is still developing the use of certain medications can not be sustainable. I wonder if these growth years are a time when behavioral medicine should be utilized more frequently and dominantly. These treatments seem more sustainable over a child’s development and into their adulthood. I took a course on behavioral medicine over Janplan and it appears to be an alternative worth considering.
2) Often, the medical professionals who are prescribing these medications to children are pediatricians and are less familiar with the drugs than one might hope. This seems to be a large oversight in this system. In addition, parents who see their children struggling and might be desperate for help are very likely to listen to their children’s pediatricians who definitely mean the best for their patients but might also be too quick to prescribe medications.
Again, I think it is important to stress the use of alternative treatments for children so early in development. Introducing a developing brain to external chemicals appears to have the potential to cause negative side effects. Giving other, less invasive options a try before turning to medication should definitely be seen as a favorable choice.
4 thoughts on “Pharmeceutical Cocktails for Children”
Thanks for writing about this Val! I too was shocked by the video. I agree that pediatricians prescribing medications without a formal psychological assessment is problematic and potentially dangerous. I also think a lack parental awareness of about what questions to ask doctors about these medications and their effects is problematic. I would guess that many parents heed doctors’ advice thinking that they know best and that these medications can only help- not hurt. I am sure many don’t know that these drugs have not been tested in children yet and that long term side effects are unknown. That’s pretty scary stuff.
It’s just scary to think of the “chain of command” that dictates the prescription process. Children can’t make the decision for themselves as minors, so the responsibility falls on parents, but really, how many parents are informed enough to decide how appropriate a medication will be for their child’s particular problem (if they even have a problem at all!)? Not many, so they tend to trust the physicians, who, as pediatricians, are not specialized in psychological disorders and may make rash or convenient decisions. Even psychologists sometimes think of medications as a panacea. It’s just so odd to me that no one knows for sure whether a lot of these kids really need the meds they’re on or if they just need therapy or a little discipline…
Prescribing drugs to children definitely seems like a scary concept, especially since a lot of evidence suggests that other methods are equally valuable (ie talk therapy has shown the same results as antidepressants, in correcting hippocampal shrinkage). Maybe doctors should be required to present other options (or required to try other options?) before moving on to pharmaceutical solutions?
I completely agree with the sentiment here. Going along with the notion that children are too readily prescribed drugs is the fact that many disorders, developmental and otherwise, are vastly over diagnosed. In a recent article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/health/more-diagnoses-of-hyperactivity-causing-concern.html?pagewanted=all) a discussion was based around that fact that 1 in 5 high school boys is diagnosed with A.D.H.D. At what point does behavior become abnormal? Can it possibly be true that 20 percent of the nation’s young male population truly has A.D.H.D., or are other less obvious forces at play, like pressure from the profiting pharmaceutical companies?