Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Children & The Drugs They Are Forced To Take

Child Behaviours

An article, by Roni Jacobson, in Scientific American questions whether children ought to be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs.

Jacobson writes:
Modern antipsychotic drugs are increasingly prescribed to children and adolescents diagnosed with a broad variety of ailments. The drugs help to alleviate symptoms in some disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but in others their effectiveness is questionable. Yet off-label prescribing is on the rise, especially in children receiving public assistance and Medicaid.
Psychotic disorders typically arise in adulthood and affect only a small proportion of children and adolescents. Off-label prescriptions, however, most often target aggressive and disruptive behaviors associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “What's really concerning now is that a lot of this prescription is occurring in the face of emerging evidence that there are significant adverse effects that may be worse in youth than in adults,” says David Rubin, a general pediatrician and co-director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Here we review the evidence for the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications commonly prescribed for five childhood conditions. But do the benefits outweigh the risks?
This is always the question. There are many others that come to mind. Has the field of human psychology gotten better in diagnosing such disorders? Are there now more young people who are suffering mental illness? Or is writing a prescription an easy solution to offer parents who are having difficulties with their children, or rather with the schools they attend? It is easy to be sympathetic to parents who are under societal pressure, notably from schools, that their children behave in accordance with expected norms. Many schools have a dictatorial policy that forces parents to give their children prescription drugs before they are allowed to return to class; it sounds absurd, but such is the way it currently is in many, if not most, schools in Canada and the United States.

Yet, it might be that the norms themselves are defective, unscientific and unrealistic, especially as it applies to young growing boys. Here's why. What teachers and school social workers deem as disruptive behaviour might be little more than boys (and it's generally young males) acting as boys do—they full of energy and finding it hard to sit in a chair for hours. Perhaps the school system and how it teaches teachers ought to be reviewed and brought into the 21st century; it seems from my experience as a parent of three children, including two boys, that schools today are generally restrictive and authoritarian.

Drugs might sedate the children, make them more malleable and acquiescent, but do so with many side effects, the article points out:
Modern antipsychotics, called “atypical” to distinguish them from the first generation of antipsychotic drugs, were initially promoted as a safer alternative to their forerunners. Yet it has become clear that atypical antipsychotics are associated with a host of serious side effects, such as weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. In a study of 116 youths with early-onset schizophrenia, children taking risperidone gained eight pounds on average after taking the medication for eight weeks, whereas children taking olanzapine gained 13 pounds on average—prompting a safety review board to terminate the olanzapine arm of the trial early. Children taking antipsychotics are also three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than children not taking the medication, according to a 2013 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University.
I suspect that further study will reveal more deleterious side effects, not only to the physical body, which is easy to measure, but to the human mind; it seems that such drugs are over-prescribed and poorly understood in terms of long-term effects.

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You can read more at [SciAmer].

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