Medication in children: Controlling symptoms or controlling behavior?

This isn’t a new issue but it is one that emerges repeatedly, amid reports of increases in the rate of diagnosis of disorders like ADHD and corrsponding increases in the use of medications for treating those disorders. Are there really more children meeting the criteria for ADHD, childhood bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder than 10 or 20 years ago? Or are we relying too much on complaints from school teachers and stressed-out parents about difficult behavior?

Use of drugs to control kids worries specialists
by Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald

Troubled youngsters across the nation are being prescribed mood-altering drugs with increasing frequency, raising questions among psychiatrists and researchers specializing in the mental health needs of children. Supporters of the current trends in child psychiatry see the burgeoning use of often expensive new drugs as a sign that needy children are gaining access to a mental healthcare system that once often excluded them.Critics disparage the statistics as evidence that healthy but unruly children are being given drugs for the convenience of their caretakers, not because they need them.My suspicion is that physicians and psychologists really have become better at recognizing certain disorders and in understanding that children can and do exhibit symptoms of disorders such as bipolar disorder or obessive compulsive disorder, though such diagnoses in children were rare in the past. I also suspect that we will in time determine that some of the increase is due to environmental toxicity and fallout from substantial increases in stress levels in the lives of our children and their families, impacting directly and indirectly on the neurobiology of emotional and behavioral controls.

But I also believe that part of the problem is that schools, parents, and physicians without appropriate training in the diagnosis of such disorders are increasingly “diagnosing” these children based on superficially simple-to-complete behavior checklists, and physicians are then using these “diagnoses” to prescribe and administer medications that may well be not only unhelpful but potentially damaging to developing bodies and nervous systems.

Perhaps one solution is to require that a diagnosis be obtained from a professional with appropriate training in child psychology and psychopathology before any psychotropic medications can be prescribed.

pediatric psychology, child psychology, child psychiatry, ADHD, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, psychiatric medication

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