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Generation Rx

Are we Overmedicating our Kids?

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Updated October 29, 2007

Generation Rx

Medicating Young Minds

A cover story in Time Magazine raised the question 'Are we giving kids too many drugs?' and is in reference to the increase use of medications to treat mental problems like ADHD, depression and bipolar disorder in kids.

While articles like this often worry parents and increase their fears of having their child on these types of medicines, like Adderall XR, Concerta, Strattera and Prozac, this article does a fairly good job of describing the risks and benefits of treatment.

I didn't like how the article began though, in describing that 'Lexapro is the perfect answer for anxiety all right, provided you're willing to overlook the fact that it does its work by artificially manipulating the very chemicals responsible for feeling and thought.' How would you expect it to work? Would it bother you to know that insulin helps diabetics by 'artificially manipulating' their blood sugar levels?

The rest of the article is less biased against medication though.

As the article states, it would likely be better if every child with suspected ADHD or depression was evaluated by 'a pediatrician, a behavioral pediatrician and a child-adolescent psychiatrist,' but even if insurance companies did pay for these visits, there are not enough pediatric mental health specialists to see all of these children. One thing we need is more education of parents, teachers and Pediatricians to help these children.

The article does have some errors. While they have a picture of an adderall tablet, they are really describing Adderall XR, which is a capsule. And there is no evidence that adderall can 'become addictive' when used to treat children with ADHD, as the table 'Pills for Children: How They Work' reports.

Also, the same chart reports that Paxil is 'prescribed pediatrically based on adult data for depression , anxiety, OCD and others' but the FDA has actually recommended that 'Paxil not be used in the treatment of pediatric' major depressive disorder because they are 'reviewing reports of an increased risk of suicidal thinking and suicide attempts related to the use of the drug Paxil in children and adolescents under the age of 18.'

The chart also states that doctors prescribe Effexor 'for childhood depression based on adult data,' but the manufacturer actually warns against this.

The information on Zoloft is also incorrect, as it is FDA approved to be 'used to treat OCD in children (ages 6-12) and adolescents (ages 12-17).'

In general, the article does a good job of educating parents about treatments for childhood mental health problems. The best parts of the article are the success stories, including a teen who likes taking her medicine for ADHD because 'it lets me perform to my full ability' and another child who is 'the best I've ever seen her' once she got on a good combination of medicines.

I agree that 'pills alone' are not the 'ideal answer to mental illness,' but parents should not be afraid to give these medicines to their kids when they are needed. And when considering whether or not to medicate their children, parents should carefully consider the consequences of not helping them with medicine. Although medications may affect 'a child's developing brain,' isn't getting in trouble all of the time, doing poorly at school and not being able to make friends probably even worse?

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