Putting young children on Medication

I read this article from New York times about a little boy who suffered intense side effects as a result of being on too many antipsychotic medication. By the time the boy was 3, he was taking multiple medications: Risperdal, Prozac, two sleeping medicines and one for attention-deficit disorder.  Of course this was due to numerous diagnoses made by doctors and  recommendations that even as a toddler it was perfectly “normal” for him to take these medications. It wasn’t until his mother was emotionally drained from the constant doctor visits, the side effects, and the pill regimen–that she put her foot down and said “no more”. She didn’t know who her son was anymore–because when she saw him he was often so sedated that he lacked personality, “youthfulness”, and energy.  Seeing him in such a way was frightening enough for her to question the “effects” of this medication on her son. Now at 6, the boy is doing remarkably well and only taking one medication for his ADD.

Though, what makes this story quite interesting is the following:

“More than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a September 2009 report by the Food and Drug Administration. Their use is growing not only among older teenagers, when schizophrenia is believed to emerge, but also among tens of thousands of preschoolers.

A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007. Only 40 percent of them had received a proper mental health assessment, violating practice standards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon,” Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry and lead researcher in the government-financed study, said.”

This is frightening to me–the number of young children that are prescribed multiple medications before they’ve even had a chance to develop mentally and emotionally. What’s even more astounding is the number of doctors prescribing medications without a thorough mental evaluation and/or careful consideration of the multiple side effects that could occur from taking medications before developed.  As a parent I’d be concerned not only by an unfounded diagnoses by a doctor, but by the mere idea that my child under the age of 6 should even be taking antipsychotic and antidepressants. We all know the effects of such drugs on adults–we’ve seen the commercials. So how could we give these medications to our children? When are we going to question the practices of doctors who are simply bent on prescribing as much medication as possible–even at the expense of our children–simply for the big buck?

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