drugs in kids

Everyone worries about kids taking drugs, or kids getting into drugs. I have a hard time with the line of keeping kids away from drugs when, to be quite honest, we seem to give them drugs all the time.

The news this morning mentioned a hearing or a house subcommittee on the use of antidepressants in children. This is the aftermath of reporting that came up earlier this year.

I am glad we are starting to look at the poor effects of antidepressants in kids, and that we look at the possibility that, for some kids, it may make the problem worse. I understand that these are illnesses that need action, and I admit that there may be some children who are in need of medication, but have we looked at the possibility that we are overmedicating our children?

We are very happy to give children medication for any number of things that make them less than pleasant classroom companions. There’s always concern over a child who acts out aggressively or who can’t pay attention, but do we revert to medication too early?

Many medications work to correct chemical balances and flows in the brain. The problem in hampering and repressing those flows in a child is that the child’s brain is still developing. It seems to me that there are infinite chances to screw up key developmental patterns and possibly create later needs for the medications taken in childhood, or further medication to help make up for any developmental handicaps caused by processes interfered with during development. When the nurse’s office in a school is lined at lunchtime with pills for children, questions arise as to whether there are really that many children with a problem, or if we are ignoring problems elsewhere.

I’ve often complained about how easy it is for a consenting adult to want an antidepressant and go out and get one. It’s a quick and easy substitute that people work themselves into time and time again. That bugs me, but a parent drugging their kid into acting normal angers me, especially when people don’t seem to be thinking long term. Developmentally, medicating away a child’s problems is reinforcement in that child’s mind that this is good way to solve problems. As the child gets older, what’s to keep him or her from continuing that pattern and taking it beyond? For many people, the road to addiction is lined with prescription filled medicine cabinets.

I am glad that there is this committee hearing on the possible undisclosed harm in giving these drugs to kids. My concern is that we are still missing the important underlying issues of what is going on for children in this country and how adults are helping them cope with the pains and burdens of growing up.

For more information, this site provides and interesting collection of commentary pieces from August, 2004.

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