Drugging Our Children

Our government goes to great lengths to criminalize our children for smoking pot, and parents fear like the plague the hint of any drug use by our children.

Yet, our schools and many parents eagerly administer drugs our children don’t need and that can put our children at risk for the rest of their lives.

You may have been told your son or daughter fidgets in class, is not focusing on a lesson, is easily distracted, and doesn’t get along with the other children. Some adults forget how they behaved when they were youngsters.  We may overlook the fact that some children in a crowded class don’t get it, can’t keep up, and that’s why they may appear “distracted.”  We also have those children who “got it” several grade levels earlier; they are bored.  Alice Munro, in a short story, “Amundsen,” described a teacher who anticipated childish excess by this prescription, “Games okay but watch for over excitement …”  She said the challenge of her fictionalized classroom was finding the happy medium, to “keep between stress and boredom.”  We have children in school coming from difficult or broken homes, perhaps with ill siblings or relatives, maybe wrestling with a parents’ divorce. These stress factors affect how these children fail to cope in school and elsewhere.

In the age of one size fits all, we attribute such fidgety, distracted or unfocused conduct not to youthful exuberance or stress but to a chemical imbalance in the child. Then, what do we do?
We introduce different chemicals into the young child’s system, a child being anyone from ages 6 to 17, to set them “right.”

These various imbalances are identified as ADHD, depression and bi-polar disorder. We are labeling our children with mental disorders that may be no more than ordinary adolescent behavior.

We are shooting our children up with these tranquilizing chemicals that themselves cause mental disorders, lasting a lifetime.

The number one drug of choice to “manage” our children was Ritalin but it’s affect didn’t last all day, and it was so “inconvenient,” having the child line up at school to get his or her second Ritalin.

These days the pharmaceutical companies have the drug, Concerta, that makes sure there’ll be no rambunctious conduct by your child all day long; it lasts all day.

The FDA warning on the Concerta medication says “misuse or abuse of methylphenidate (the active ingredient) can result in serious (possibly fatal) heart and blood pressure problems.”  The FDA required this stern warning because they found a strong link between the use of ADHD medications and an increased risk of sudden death and serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks. They found reports of psychotic behavior from prescriptions of Concerta and other drugs including Ritalin, Adderall and Strattera. The FDA warning states further that Concerta can be “habit-forming” and “should be used cautiously by people who have mental/mood disorders …”

Ironically, Concerta is being prescribed for just that reason – because the child is “diagnosed” with mental or mood disorders. Worse still, Lara Honos-Weld, Ph. D, a clinical psychologist, says, “mis-diagnosis is rampant.” The diagnosis mistakes “stress, lack of sleep or other causes that could be solved” without medication as a mental disorder instead.

A child who takes this medication may suffer adverse side effects that include headache, stomach pain, sleeplessness, aggression, mood and behavior changes, twitching, shaking and decreased appetite.

To sum it up, we have a subjective diagnosis that one or other child has ADHD, a diagnosis therefore  of questionable reliability, for which we prescribe untested drugs, with ambiguous and unpredictable outcomes,  that may have long term complications that compromise our children for life.

We must do better. In the best case, we are over prescribing. In the worst case, we shouldn’t be prescribing at all.