Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hit the Kids with a New MH Diagnosis

Children don’t have it any better these days than the adults did when they were growing up. In too many instances, the kids probably have more stress and more new forms of abuse than anyone did previously. The one thing that we adults had going for us was that our parents understood that kids will be kids and childhood is a series of emotional as well as physical growth plateaus. They weathered the storms of the terrible twos, the whatever threes and then came the awkward teen years and young adulthood before they could wipe their brows and sit down.

Bedtime was contentious, pleas for more time in front of the TV or to stay out playing were too numerous to count. But it was all part of growing up as was the talking back in a test of how far we could push the envelope. We fussed and grumbled, kicked our furniture and slammed doors and that was part of it, too.

Today, thanks to the wonders of modern psychiatry and the oh, so wonderful people who are oh, so willing to whip out that prescription pad, kids can be medicated and childhood is a series of psychiatric disorders. Sure, some kids are born with extraordinary challenges due to environmental toxins beginning in the womb, polluted air, lead painted walls, insufficient dietary needs or terribly inexperienced, tired or immature parents. Everybody wants a break from it all, but psychiatrists I’ve talked to don’t believe the answer lies in chemistry.

Writing a blog for someone else recently, I came across a wonderful, refreshingly open psychiatrist who calls it like it is. Medicating all those kids and diagnosing them with ADHD is just plain wrong in his opinion. As he said to me, “When 20% of high school boys are diagnosed with ADHD and on medication, I fear we’ve crossed the line and something needs to be done about this.” With no long-term studies to back up the safety of these stimulant drugs (and don’t we make stimulant use a crime in some instances?), we are headed for an enormous growth spurt of another kind, a mental health tsunami the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Who’s at the head of the marching band crowing about the wonders of chemistry for kids? The peerless academics with the prestigious institutions on the boards of international corporations who go forth and preach the gospel of kid medicating. They provide talking points, cherry-pick data and hope no one questions their selections. Not only that, but they are on the actual committees that decide which disorders are to be recognized as disorders and ready for insurance reimbursement. Marching right behind them are the scores of GPs, pediatricians and other prescriptioning professionals who are only too willing to fork over a script for the kids.

But the children are uncontrollable you might say. Yes, maybe they are, but should you put something into their brains that will do heaven only knows what? Who will be around to accept responsibility for the damage or will it not be recognized and the kids will just be labeled “troubled” or “criminals?” Kids with learning disorders have problems in school that, if not properly tended to, result in the kids acting out big time, being sent to “special” or “alternative” schools and turned over to juvenile detention authorities. What a business they have there.

If things weren’t bad enough, there’s a new diagnosis creeping over the horizon and it’s called Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT). Ah, how impressive but oh, so dumb, too. What are the deeply concerning symptoms that led a few authors to cry out that we have “an exciting new frontier in psychiatry?” The symptoms are bad, really bad and they include daytime sleepiness, hypoactivity, lethargy, and slow movement.

Where were these authors when people began talking about the 11-hour school day for kids? Children roused at dawn, put on school buses and trucked to arrive at schools at 7:30AM and not returned home until 4PM are tired, sleepy, hypoactive, lethargic and have slow movement. Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?

How is this diagnosis anywhere near “an exciting new frontier in psychiatry” unless you have stock in a company that is going to provide yet another medication for these kids? Do they even give a thought to the fact that the brains of these children are being bathed in meds that may impede normal growth? Our brains don’t complete their growth and modifications until almost age 25. Does it make sense to do anything that may do lasting damage or even cause a hindrance of nerve growth? They don’t even know this because THEY HAVE NO STUDIES WITH KIDS!

In 2011, Americans spent $7 billion for medications to treat ADHD and the numbers have only increased since then. Are we going to add billions more to treat kids with a quirky diagnosis that some researchers think must be medicated? If I told you to take a hammer and hit a kid in the head each time they did something wrong, would you do it? Wouldn’t you think I was out of my mind? Yes, you would and you should because that’s simply crazy thinking.

I think “an exciting new frontier in psychiatry” would be to finally solve the incredible problem of just how we can help kids with learning or behavioral disabilities without hurting them.  It would occur when we see treatment plans and a holistic approach, not “the-prescription-pad-is-all” approach we see now.

Unfortunately, we have tired parents, tired teachers and inadequately trained mental health and medical professionals who really can’t do an adequate job. Yes, they all need help, but some of them have bought a line of thinking that can only be dangerous to kids.  That type of thinking concerns me greatly. It’s almost analogous to the use of mercury to treat VD or pulling teeth or removing vaginas to cure mental illness. Barbaric, dangerous and ineffective because THEY DIDN’T KNOW THE CAUSE.

Do some kids need medication? Undoubtedly. Do this many kids need it? Questionable. Should SCT be seriously considered and medicated? Doubtful.