|Boys in the trenches, World War I
I have a lot of friends whose kids are on psychotropic drugs. These are seemingly normal children, not those with special needs, and their problems range from attention deficit disorder and ADHD to depression and more serious issues of mental health. I'm in no position to judge this, cognizant of the fact that nearly all of those friends are wonderful, careful parents doing what they believe is best for their kids. But every time I read an article like the ones I've linked to below, I wonder. What, exactly, is going on that so many kids are being drugged at ever younger ages? Is this necessary? Is this a cultural shift? Is this a new "normal?" Is this going to backfire eventually? Is this a result of the pharmaceutical/industrial complex? Is it all about money? Are these kids at an advantage or have we created a monster?
I come at this predicament from a very biased position, of course -- while both my boys are free, blessedly, of any kind of drug, my daughter has endured an arsenal of them, and I can honestly say that nearly all the twenty or so that she's been on in seventeen years have been of no use to her whatsoever. In fact, they've probably done more harm than good. We are not an exception to this rule; 30% of people with epilepsy do not have control with multiple drug trials. Yes, 30%. I've grown extremely, if not irrationally, opposed to the seemingly careless way drugs are prescribed to children with refractory epilepsy (epilepsy is considered refractory when you've had a trial of at least two drugs and seizures are not controlled) -- I hear of young children on three and sometimes four combinations of AEDs all the time, still, in 2012 -- and I'm starting to get really creeped out by the numbers of "normal" kids being prescribed psychotropic ones as well.
I remember one neurologist years ago telling me that taking anti-epileptics was like peeling back the scalp and tissue underneath and pouring medicine over the entire brain -- a neuro-bath, I believe he described it back in the ancient 1990s. That meant the entire brain was affected by the drugs, and I do remember looking at the insert (that lovely piece of paper written in infinitesimal writing listing side effects ranging from irritability and bruising to constant laughter and death) and feeling like I was drowning in terror. I have never gotten used to giving her this shit. Never. I suppose I would have should her seizures ever have been controlled. I might have even been grateful. But even now, the drugs that Sophie takes are so new no one really knows what the hell they're doing to her, beyond the dizziness, headache, stomach cramping and tiny bit of seizure control. Years ago, when I first began exploring alternative treatments for Sophie, I asked her neurologist at the time whether it was all right to give her Chinese herbal teas that I'd gotten from a very trusted Chinese doctor. I don't see why not, the neurologist said in her clipped British accent, They couldn't be any worse for her than the stuff we've been cramming down her throat for the last decade. Poor little chip.
Evidently, more than 100,000 American soldiers are currently on psychotropic drugs. Yes, that's right. More than 100,000 of them, for issues like attention, depression, psychosis, etc. I suppose the justification is the constant stress and terror many of them have endured during more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're asked, all the time, to honor our troops, to admire them for their bravery, their sacrifices in ensuring our freedoms. It makes me sick that the powers that be are loading them up with drugs so that they can do their job. And some of these soldiers have had alarming behavioral side effects -- outbursts of extreme aggression, psychosis, suicide. Have we replaced the shell shock of old in an attempt to "help?"
The image of the brain, bathed in chemicals, comes to mind.
I hope some of the brightest and best minds are trying to figure this out -- outside of commerce. My biased gut that feels like I'm poisoning my daughter every time I give her doses of Vimpat and Onfi tells me that something is just not right about any of it.
Articles referenced: Growing Up Drugged by Caitlin Bell Barnett, Salon
A Fog of Drugs and War by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times