Overmedication of Kids an Increasing Concern

A recent study conducted by the University of Maryland and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine emphasized the alarming increase in the number of American children being treated with psychiatric drugs.

"From 1987-1996, the number (of medicated children) tripled, and shows no sign of slowing down."

In 2000, an estimated 20 million prescriptions were written for stimulant drugs alone.

The study's primary investigator, Julie Zito, expressed concern that "cost saving techniques by insurance companies, marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and increased demands on parents and doctors may be driving the steep rise." Ms. Zito asks if "the steep increases in the use of most classes of medications, including anti-psychotic drugs, were being prescribed possibly as a way to restrain difficult children."

The report goes on to state, "Other than zonking you, we don't know that behavioral management by drug control is the way to learn to behave properly." Furthermore, "if we are using drugs to control behavior, that doesn't change the underlying problem if someone doesn't know how to get along with their peers."

This trend is worrisome.

Although for some children psychiatric medication may be necessary, this study raises a disturbing question: Are we overmedicating our children? And to what end?

Are we managing kid's behaviors with powerful psychiatric drugs without addressing the underlying problem?

With ADHD, kids often remain medicated from kindergarten through high school, yet there is a conspicuous lack of long-term research on this class of drugs. How do these psychiatric drugs affect a fragile and developing brain? And what lingering effect will these drugs have on our children 20 years from now?

Who benefits from this trend? Are the children benefiting? Or is it the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry?

In light of this study, these are serious questions that we, as a society, need to ask ourselves.

Imagine the following scenario: your eight-year-old son, Jesse, has just entered second grade. Within three weeks of starting the school year, you receive a note from his new teacher. She has observed that Jesse wriggles around in his seat too much and has a hard time keeping his hands off of other children.

She finds his repetitive and interruptive questions annoying and disruptive. Jesse appears to tune our much of the time in class, and when it's time to write down the homework assignments, he is out in left field.

You give the teacher a call and assure her that Jesse simply needs more time to adjust. You're aware that he is high-spirited, but he'll be okay.

Within two months, the teacher calls you in for a conference. You enter the room, with a sinking feeling, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Is Jesse really over the top or is the school district particularly strict? The counselor, the principal and psychologist may have been called in to attend the meeting as well. They ask. "Have you heard of ADHD?" "Have you thought of putting your child on medication?"

In some cases, you may even be warned that Jesse can't remain in the classroom until he is medicated. You sulk out of the room, bewildered, or you are seething with anger at having been set up, or you are really ticked off at Jesse for letting himself, and you, down. Or you blame yourself for being an inadequate parent. Or all of the above.

Unfortunately, this scenario is commonly played out nationwide. With class size on the rise and no relief in sight, it is difficult to maintain an orderly classroom and students struggling with hyperactivity or attention difficulties often exacerbate the situation.

With diminishing support and a marked lack of funding, I empathize with our teachers; we've placed them in a very tough spot.

Fortunately, when it comes to the treatment of behavioral problems, there are safe and effective non-drug alternatives. We have a choice.

Homeopathy, a holistic medicine, is very effective for treating childhood disorders such as ADHD, ODD, the autistic spectrum including Asperger syndrome, and other behavioral and learning problems. It uses small doses of natural substances to stimulate the body's inherent ability to heal itself.

In homeopathic prescribing a single substance is found that matches the individual symptom pattern of the sick person. Since homeopathy treats the whole person physical, mental and emotional symptoms are all taken into account. Because it is holistic medicine, not only do learning and behavioral problems improve, so do most or all of the physical, mental and emotional complaints of the person.

The changes seen during treatment are often dramatic.

Although homeopathy is considered a complementary medicine in the states, it is considered conventional in most of Europe, South America, India and Mexico. A survey conducted by the British Medical Journal in 1986 showed that 42% of British medical doctors referred their patients to professional homeopaths.

As more research money is being allocated to studying complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), it is only a matter of time before homeopathy becomes conventional in the United States.

(Re-published from Edmonds Beacon.)