Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Medicating our children

I sat and watched a PBS Frontline special last night on medicating children and childhood bi-polar illness. My emotions ran the full gamut from sad to enraged, but basically stayed at being really pissed off by what I was seeing.

Toddlers being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for basically being--toddlers! Four-year-olds on eight different medications--each one prescribed to counter the side effect of the one before it. Have we lost our minds?! What is wrong with us? When did we stop allowing our children to be children? I realize that in the history of society and American culture the institution of childhood is relatively new--last hundred years or so--but we created it, so let them enjoy being children! Create, and enforce, the boundaries they need and let them be.

One of the four-year-old boys in the program basically sat comatose in front of a computer, downing pills his mom gave him, for the whole interview. When he wasn't doing that he was eating--corn dogs and Gatorade. At no point did the little boy's doctor mention nutrition or any other form of treatment other than medication. In fact the doctor made the statement that he was too young to respond to therapy so they would just keep him medicated.

I realize that there are some children with genuine behavior problems. Some of them actually do benefit from medications. I get that. But shouldn't the goal be to get them to the point where they no longer need the meds? It can be hugely overwhelming for parents--but these are our children.

My son is extremely intelligent. He's so smart. He's also 2. He has always hit his developmental milestones far earlier than his peers but sometimes his brain works faster than the rest of him can keep up with. Some days he's more than I can handle on my own. He's 2. That's okay. The first time I have a doctor look at me and tell me that my son's brain isn't wired correctly and may need medication to function "normally", I will politely (maybe) thank him or her for their time and walk out. And find another practice.

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