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A Rush to Medicate Young Minds

Straterra Dr. Elizabeth J. Roberts had a great article in the October 8, 2006 issue of The Washington Post entitled, "A Rush To Medicate Young Minds". She points out that in 2002 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that almost 20% of pediatric office visits are for psychosocial problems. She also points out that there has been a trememdous increase in the prescription of psychotropic medications.

There has been a staggering jump in the percentage of children diagnosed with a mental illness and treated with psychiatric medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2002 almost 20 percent of office visits to pediatricians were for psychosocial problems -- eclipsing both asthma and heart disease. That same year the Food and Drug Administration reported that some 10.8 million prescriptions were dispensed for children -- they are beginning to outpace the elderly in the consumption of pharmaceuticals. And this year the FDA reported that between 1999 and 2003, 19 children died after taking prescription amphetamines -- the medications used to treat ADHD. These are the same drugs for which the number of prescriptions written rose 500 percent from 1991 to 2000.

Dr. Roberts points out that there are many incentives for various stakeholders in prescribing psychotropic medication, for most stakeholders that is, except the child.

Unfortunately, when a child is diagnosed with a mental illness, almost everyone benefits. The schools get more state funding for the education of a mentally handicapped student. Teachers have more subdued students in their already overcrowded classrooms. Finally, parents are not forced to examine their poor parenting practices, because they have the perfect excuse: Their child has a chemical imbalance.

The only loser in this equation is the child. It is the child who must endure the side effects of these powerful drugs and be burdened unnecessarily with the label of a mental illness. Medicating a child, based on a misdiagnosis, is a tragic injustice for the child: His or her only advocate is the parent who lacked the courage to apply appropriate discipline.

Well-intentioned but misinformed teachers, parents using the Internet to diagnose their children, and hurried doctors are all a part of the complex system that drives the current practice of misdiagnosing and overmedicating children. The solution lies in the practice of good, conscientious medicine that is careful, thorough and patient-centered.

Parents need to be more careful with whom they entrust their child's mental health care. Doctors need to take the time to understand their pediatric patients better and have the courage to deliver the bad news that sometimes a child's disruptive, aggressive and defiant behavior is due to poor parenting, not to a chemical imbalance such as bipolar disorder or ADHD.

To read the whole article, click on the link below.

Link: A Rush to Medicate Young Minds - washingtonpost.com.

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