Letter to the editor: The medicated child

To the editor,

The documentary division of PBS is called Frontline. Frontline is noted for its excellence winning several Peabody Awards over the years. Many of their documentaries are found to be uncannily prescient. None more so in my opinion than their 2008 documentary called THE MEDICATED CHILD. The “Medicated Child” tells the story of the astronomical increase in the Bi-Polar diagnosis among children from 2000 to 2007. The increase was largely due to research that indicated that many children who had been formerly diagnosed with Hyperactivity Disorder were really experiencing a form of clinical depression called Bi Polar Disorder. The medications used to treat Bi Polar Disorder are much different from the medications prescribed for Hyperactivity. They include antidepressant, antipsychotic and anti- anxiety drugs. Drugs far more powerful than the Ritalin that was generally prescribed for hyperactivity. Although there was no exact formula for deciding which drugs to use and at what dose; the drugs did reduce symptoms significantly in most of their patients.

Most of the children who were on these medications at the time of the documentary are in their early to middle twenties now. some their late twenties. That would put them in the Generation X and Millennial categories respectively, A recent study reported in the January’s’s[2020] issue of the Harpers Index suggests an interesting correlation. The index found that one out of every three millennials had voluntarily left a job because of mental health issues in 2018. And that one out of every two Generation X members had voluntarily left a job in 2018 because of mental health issues. The conclusions we reach from this correlation must be both measured and circumspect. but it seems to indicate that many of the millions of children who were prescribed these powerful drugs in their early childhoods have now grown up to face debilitating mental health issues in early adulthood. No one doubts however that mental health issues have become an epidemic in this country.

It is difficult to discuss these issues without offering some practical solutions. One common sense solution is to make every effort to correctly diagnose young children before they are treated with powerful psychiatric medicines. Another is to seek every possible alternative to these medications in addressing a child’s emotional issues, including diet, exercise, sleep patterns, etc. And also to at least try a variety of modalities that often can and will help in addressing the needs of the child. including massage, meditation, yoga, and counseling. Mothers who are at home, who cook for their children, keep them away from bad food and indiscriminate use of electronics, can help a lot too.

A child who is medicated early in life will often require some medication for the rest of their lives. For some this may be necessary. But for others it imposes an unnatural limitation on the child’s ability to reach and achieve their potential as a human. I implore every medical professional, parent and or educational administrator to look more deeply into this urgent matter. There is simply too much at stake to look the other way or do nothing.

Jim Turner