Are We Prescribing Our Children to Death?
Are we prescribing our children to death? Illegal drugs have always been a danger to our children and teenagers, yet what of those drugs we tell our children they need to take; the very ones trusted authorities tell us will make our children 'all better'? Too often these 'cures' are coupled with side effects whose natures have been suppressed or ignored in the medical community. Should we really have to dig through the lies to ensure the safety of our children? "Today, the mental health treatment of our young is a life or death gamble and, given the growing number of fatalities, a roll of the dice not to be taken lightly. No longer is it a question of whether children die from psychiatric treatments, but rather whose child will be next," wrote Jan Eastgate and Bruce Wiseman in their presentation to the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (Jan Eastgate, 2002).
Everything begins with the diagnosis. The perfect child transforms from a sweet ball of energy into an overly active attention getter. Does this sound familiar? What so many of us consider to be a natural part of being a child has been distorted by some in the psychiatric community into a mental illness. How does one detect mental illness in a teenager today? What follows is an example of questions asked of teenagers and children to indicate mental illness. “Have you ever felt so full of energy that it was difficult to sit still? Have you ever felt anxious when you had to say or do something in front of people? Have you ever been so concerned about something that you could not sleep? Have you ever felt so happy that you could not concentrate? Have you ever felt so sad that you could not focus on your school work?” (Jones, 2009) If a juvenile answers yes to any of the above questions chances are, according to many psychiatrists, they are in danger of mental illness and in need of medication. The problem with the diagnosis of a mental disorder is that too often it is entirely subjective, depending on the rational and perspective of the one administering the diagnosis, as well as the state of mind (emotional context) of the subject.
There are several factors compounding the dangers of the subjective nature of diagnosis and the subsequent prescribing of medications for said mental illness. First and foremost is the illusion of the sanctity of formal medical studies, given as evidence for the safety and efficiency of prescription medications. Just recently this very issue has come to the attention of congressmen in Washington D.C. in light of various medical scandals. Several pharmaceutical giants have been found utilizing ghost written scientific articles to promote and market the value of their products (Natasha Singer, 2009). Although the medical community has, over the years, had a method of dealing with ghost written reports (the authors would be banned from the publication) there has been no universal regulation of how to counter act commercials masquerading as science. One quote from the article is particularly disturbing, "In the past, researchers have raised allegations of ghostwriting in articles about quality-of-life drugs like antidepressants , painkillers and diet pills. But the situation has become more serious this year after a few editors said they had discovered ghostwriting in manuscripts about life-and-death products like cancer and hematology drugs." (Natasha Singer, 2009) Considering that some twenty seven million Americans (Kirkwood, 2009) use anti depressant medication this is very, very frightening, especially because more than ten million prescriptions for antidepressants are given out to juveniles in the United States each year (Carlson, 2009).
The second factor contributing to the dangers of misdiagnosis of mental illness in teenagers is quite simply, school officials. Numerous examples can be found of parents who were coerced, threatened, and expected to have their child, or teenager, put on medication or face criminal charges of child endangerment. One such example is that of Matthew Smith (1986-2000). Matthew’s parents were told by their child’s school’s social worker that their son had ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and that if they did not have him medicated they would be charged with neglecting his educational and emotional needs. Matthew died of a heart attack at the age of fourteen on March twenty first, 2000. The coroner found hard evidence that Matthew’s death was directly attributable to the long term prescription use of a stimulant his parents were told was safe and necessary to assuage his ADHD. Unfortunately this violation of informed consent has become a common, even accepted practice by many trusted authorities when it comes to our children (Jan Eastgate, 2002). This illustration quite vividly brings us to my next point: the dangers of the drugs intended to cure diagnosed mental illnesses in juveniles.
Mind altering: a word most people associate with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), opium, heroin, and cocaine. Unbeknown to many parents though is the fact that many of the medications prescribed for juvenile mental illness fall into the same category as their illegal counterparts. Ritalin, according to the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) has effects similar to cocaine. Interestingly enough, the DEA points out “The increased use of this substance for the treatment of ADHD has paralleled an increase in its abuse among adolescents and young adults who crush these tablets and snort the powder to get high.” (United States Drug Enforcement Administration). Not only are the physical ailments of these prescription medications dangerous for our children and teenagers but so are the psychological. Something that has been swept under the carpet, or downplayed, by the media in the horrible case of Columbine High in Colorado was that one of the shooters, Eric Harris, had been prescribed luvox to deal with his obsessive compulsive disorder. Some of the known side effects of luvox (fluvoxamine) are suicidal tendencies in those under the age of twenty four, unusual thoughts or behaviors, depression, hostility and aggression, and impulsiveness (Cerner Multum, Inc, 2005). Luvox is not the only drug prescribed to teenagers that has dangerous side effects for their age group. Although Prozac is the only drug that has been found to be clinically effective in treating depression in juveniles, psychiatrists prescribe a whole slew of different medications to teenagers and children, although scientific evidence has shown absolutely no support of these medications’ ability to help youth with their problems. Indeed, the evidence points out these medications intended for adults result in dangerous side effects in the young. What’s even more frightening is that evidence exists that the very agency we, the American public rely on to regulate the pharmaceutical industry has pushed to suppress negative information about antidepressants, out of fear that this information would scare parents away from allowing their children to be given these drugs. Interestingly enough, many of these very same drugs have been shown in clinical trials to be no more effective than sugar pills (Vedantam, 2004).
One of the most unfortunate side effects of juveniles being placed on pharmaceutical medication is that continued use of such drugs leads subsequently to addiction problems later in life. It’s a simple matter of physiology: use of any addictive substance decreases the brain’s dopamine receptors ability to process pleasure, consequently leading to the subject feeling a strong need to continue ingesting the one substance that seems to provide pleasure, the source of addiction. Psychoactive substances, such as many of the drugs prescribed to juveniles for a multitude of perceived mental disorders, have claws, so to say, when it comes to the brain of the user. The brain is composed of many regions, one of the most important of which is that of the midbrain (the mesencephalon). The midbrain is comprised of two different areas. One section, the ventral tegmental area (VTA), is crucial in the motivation of survival. Normally the VTA provides impetus for procreation and feeding, but when psychoactive substances are introduced into the body, the dopamine receptors in the VTA interpret them as being necessary for the survival of the individual (World Health Organization, 2004). Thus begins addiction.
The most unfortunate aspect of all of these problems is that they can easily be avoided. The very prevalent ‘problem’ of ADHD is in the words of Dr. Mary Ann Block, not what it seems: “I have consistently found that these children do not have ADHD, but instead have allergies, dietary problems, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid problems and learning difficulties that are causing their symptoms (Block PhD, 2009).” Therapy is another method that has been ignored for too long now as being too expensive and taking too much time, but really, are our children worth it? I believe so. Spending time with our teenagers, finding out how they feel and what they enjoy in their lives would allow us as parents to stay in touch with them and their needs, rather than depending on strangers to decide what’s best for our children.
It but takes a glimpse into our past to see that drugs such as LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phenylcyclohexylpiperidine), MDMA (Ecstasy), and Cocaine were all once legal and believed to be safe for human consumption as well as having no negative side effects. Depending on manufactured drugs’ interaction with developing minds is a fool’s game, one with which we are gambling the lives of our future generations.
Block PhD, M. A. (2009, September 15). No More ADHD:Ten Steps to Help Your Child’s Attention and Behavior without Drugs. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL www.cchrint.org: http://www.cchrint.org/2009/09/15/no-more-adhd/
Carlson, K. (2009, July 19). Psychiatric Drugs, Violence and Suicide. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL: http://www.cchrint.org/2009/07/19/psychiatric-drugs-violence-suicide/
Cerner Multum, Inc. (2005, June 20). Luvox - Drugs and Treatment. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from revolutionhealth: http://www.revolutionhealth.com/drugs-treatments/luvox
Jan Eastgate, B. W. (2002, November 13). The Silent Death of America's Children. Retrieved Setember 21, 2009, from Citizens Commission on Human Rights International: http://www.fightforkids.org/silent_death_of_americas_children.pdf
Jones, A. (2009, August 26). Teen Screen, Cynical Deception, Dangerous Illusion. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL: http://www.cchrint.org/2009/08/26/teen-screen-cynical-deception-dangerous-illusion/
Kirkwood, R. C. (2009, August 5). All Doped Up. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from The New American: http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/health-care/1595
Natasha Singer, D. W. (2009, September 17). Medical Editors Push for Ghostwriting Crackdown . Retrieved September 27, 2009, from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/business/18ghost.html?_r=2&hp
United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Information: M. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/concern/m.html
Vedantam, S. (2004, September 10). Psychology in the News . Retrieved September 27, 2009, from The American Psychological Association www.psycport.com: http://www.antidepressantsfacts.com/2004-09-10-FDA-urged-withhold-SSRI-data.htm
World Health Organization. (2004). Neuroscience of psychoactive substance use and dependence. Geneva: World Health Organization.