The number of kids in America haphazardly placed on psychotropic medications is beyond alarming — it’s actually become a national emergency that few people seem to be noticing. In fact, it’s become routine that I hear from parents about the number of prescription drugs their child is on even before we begin our first appointment together. I then ask about who wrote the prescription? What was the diagnostic process used? How thoroughly did you discuss side effects? The responses I generally receive to those questions are my primary doctor, he/she simply wrote us a prescription, and little — if any — discussion occurred around potential side effects. Does this sound normal and healthy to you?
What prescription drugs do
Are prescription psychotropic medications all they are cracked up to be? Do these drugs really fix psychological issues and help kids deal with anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges? While these questions can be debated, there are a number of well-established truths about psychotropic drugs and what they really do to kids, including the following:
- Potential side effects
- Potential interaction effects with other drugs (prescription and recreation)
- Potential withdrawal effects
- Self-fulfilling prophecies (meaning kids are more likely to see themselves as victims to a psychiatric disorder and potentially exert less effort to improve their condition, believing they are biologically limited in life so why even try?).
- Delay/prevent other legitimate assistance from occurring (many psychotropic drug users falsely assume the drug they are on will fix their problems, and therefore dismiss the idea of seeking the help of a counselor, or working on their own to improve their condition).
What prescription drugs don’t do
Kids prescribed psychotropic drugs are often unaware of the fact that these drugs are largely ineffective, often cause additional problems, and don’t make problems magically go away. Additionally, these drugs don’t do the following:
- Teach kids how to self-regulate their attention and focus
- Teach kids how to manage their emotions
- Teach kids how to deal with stress and anxiety, problem-solve, or make better decisions
- Promote healthy, independent thinking, and the confidence to believe they don’t need to be on a drug to experience life happiness and success
Today alone thousands of kids will visit their pediatrician and leave moments later with a prescription for a potentially dangerous psychotropic drug. Very few of these kids will actually be diagnosed, and in most cases the prescription will be a result of either the parent asking for it directly, or the pediatrician throwing out a purported “quick fix.” The kid won’t really understand what is happening, won’t have a voice in the decision, and won’t have any future markers developed so that he can eventually be taken off the drug. The drug will be presented as a fix to the problem, when in reality most kids would be far better off not being on the drug. Instead, we should try paying more attention to kids, loving them more, teaching healthy stress-coping, rewarding them for their efforts, and helping them problem-solve (possibly by using a professional counselor) so they can feel empowered and confident about their future.