by Traci Knight
President Obama, with his March, 2014 budget announcement has allotted 750 million dollars over five years, to address the problem of over-prescriptions of psychotropic medications in our nation’s foster care youth. In addition to foster children being over medicated to control their behavior, government research shows that 6.7% of America’s young people are taking psychiatric drugs as of December 2013. Antidepressants and ADHD drugs are prescribed the most, followed by anti-psychotics. Although they are equally prescribed, ADHD drugs are typically given to boys, while antidepressants are more often prescribed to girls.
Antidepressants and Suicide
A black box warning is included with the prescriptions of SSRI drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) due to the fact that these drugs double the chance of suicidal ideation in children and adolescents, including suicide attempts. Prozac, now called fluoxetine, is an SSRI drug. Although psychiatrists and federal agencies are downplaying the significance of the data, saying that depression itself leads to suicide, the numbers clearly show that these drugs are not preventing kids from killing themselves as they are prescribed to do. In fact, they make it more likely to happen.
Psychiatric Medications and Violence
Although the discussion often revolves around gun control, there is another factor implicit in the number of school shootings, stabbings, and violence that has exploded over the last three decades. It is estimated that over 90% of school shootings involved psychiatric medications such as Ritalin and Prozac. Mental health watchdog group CCHR has compiled a list of 34 high profile school shooters and school related violence including an event last month at Seattle Pacific University where 26 year old Aaron Ybarra, killed one and wounded another, with the intention of killing everyone he encountered and then himself. Ybarra was being treated for mental illness with Prozac since 2012, which obviously did not have the intended effect.
Alternatives to Drug Treatment
Psychotropic drugs affect the mind, emotions, and behavior. These drugs come under many brand names and have a myriad of intended effects. They are prescribed to children for a variety of disorders such as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Depression, Conduct Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Bedwetting, to name a few. Pharmaceutical companies and the mental health industries they support have cornered the market for treating behavior problems in children. Impoverished and vulnerable populations are especially at risk, with foster children primarily being treated with antipsychotics.
Alternative treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Multi-Systemic Therapy, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy have to compete directly with the drug companies and often are not covered by insurance companies like Medicaid. Pilot programs in Philadelphia have been working hard to get alternatives to drug therapy available to needy youth and they applaud the President’s acknowledgement of the problem. Therapy based treatment is showing solid, evidence based progress working with troubled children.
With the big pharma controlling the treatment options for the majority of Americans; parents, educators, and doctors are not equipped with alternatives to drug treatments. Rather than addressing the root cause of the behavior problem and trying to solve it, children and teens are being plied with powerful drugs that create the beginning of long term drug use and often trigger the onset of violent or suicidal episodes. These drugs are not a panacea for controlling behavior and parents and guardians should consider all their options before tampering with their children’s minds.