Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Medicated Child, a Review

I just got through watching this Frontline program on PBS and I wanted to record my thoughts about it while they are still fresh. I have a special interest in this subject since I have an eight-year old grandson who has been diagnosed with ADHD and has been on medication for about a year.

If you have not seen this program and the subject interests you, it is possible to watch it online if you have a high-speed connection. As is typical with these Frontline presentations, the subject is well covered and thoughtfully done. There were some pretty conspicuous errors of admission which were glaringly obvious to me, although you may not have noticed them if you weren’t looking for them. This is one of the reasons I felt moved to write this article.

The statistics of the number of children that are being medicated for psychiatric disorders are alarming. Increasingly, this is the conventional solution of choice for children with behavioral problems. The program barely mentioned alternative approaches which was what was so disturbing to me.

What was talked about in the presentation is that many of the children who were originally diagnosed with ADHD have now been called bipolar. A pediatric psychiatrist wrote an influential paper noting the similarities in the symptoms of both conditions, and ever since then increasing numbers of doctors have been diagnosing kids as bipolar and prescribing medications appropriate for this diagnosis.

One of the big problems in dealing with these medications with children is that they were never tested on children so their effects are largely unknown on this age group. It is like a big experiment that is being done on our children.

Perhaps the most telling fact in this whole presentation came out when it was talking about a piece of legislation that was passed during the Clinton administration. A huge incentive was provided for the pharmaceutical companies if they would do pediatric testing on these psychiatric medications. What was the incentive? The drug companies would get an additional 6 months of exclusivity on their patents, before the drugs were opened up to become generics. This additional 6 months of exclusivity might be worth as much as a Billion dollars in extra profit for the pharmaceutical manufacturer!

This is the real bottom line, in both a literal and figurative sense: Obscene profits for the pharmaceutical companies.

Which brings me around to alternatives. The problem with the whole allopathic medication approach is that it merely treats symptoms; it does not get down to causes. And sometimes finding causes is not such a difficult process.

One thing that an observant person would notice is that most of the parents of these kids were overweight if not obese; in other words typical Americans. In many of the shots the kids were busy downing some kind of sugar; pop, candy, etc. Duh! Think that might have something to do with the problem?

In my own experience with my grandson, my daughter and I saw noticeable improvements in his behavior when she reduced the amount of refined sugar he was consuming. This in addition to a conscious effort to improve his diet by increasing the amounts of organic fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.

So let’s get over our hypnosis folks! Drugs are not the answer. It was apparent from this presentation that Doctors don’t know much and are really just experimenting on our kids. We need to take responsibility for our own children. If we start making better choices about what foods we are feeding our children, we can see enormous changes in behavior, not to mention other health benefits. There are other lifestyle factors too that can be helpful which are worth exploring. In the one brief clip where it was showing alternatives, one of the kids was doing an exercise like yoga.

These alternative approaches may require some effort and some reeducation on our parts, but if we want to effect real change we need to get down to the real causes. Pharmaceuticals can never do this.

ps. the photos are of my grandson Tystan

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