More than 7% of American schoolchildren are taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties, a new government report shows.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 NIH National Institutes of Health
“We can’t advise parents on what they should do, but I think it’s positive that over half of parents reported that medications helped ‘a lot’, said report author LaJeana Howie, a statistical research scientist at the US National Center for Health Studies.
Howie and her colleagues were not able to identify the specific disorders or medications the children received. However, she said that 81% of the children had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point in their lives.
Data for the study came from the National Health Interview Survey, which continually collects information about health and health care in the United States. All of the information on children is obtained through parental (or other guardian) responses. None of the information comes from medical records.
Overall, the researchers found that 7.5% of US children between the ages of 6 and 17 were taking medication for an emotional or behavioral problem. Significantly more boys than girls were given medication – 9.7% of boys compared with 5.2% of girls.
White children were the most likely to be on psychiatric medications (9.2%), followed by black children (7.4%) and Hispanic children (4.5%).
The study found that significantly more children on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program were on medication (9.9%), versus 6.7% with private insurance and just 2.7% of children without insurance.
Additionally, more families living below 100% of the federal poverty level had children taking medications than those above the federal poverty level.
“There maybe parenting challenges, such as more single-parent households, medications may be more available than access to behavioral treatments, there may be more logistical issues with nonpharmaceutical interventions, like getting time off from work,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. “It’s encouraging that the children who are identified as taking prescription medications are benefiting from those medications,” Adesman said. However, he added, “There are nonpharmaceutical treatments for virtually all psychiatric diagnoses in children. For households where a child has significant emotional or behavioral difficulties, counseling, behavior management and some forms of psychotherapy can be helpful as well.”
I suspect that the definition of helps “a lot” means the child is easier for the parent or teacher to manage. That is their behavior is subdued by the medication(s) so they appear more socially acceptable.
It has been my clinical experience that these psychiatric medications stifle creativity and dull the intellect. However, the use of amphetamines for ADHD goes well beyond that to create liver inflammation, adrenal stress, hypothyroidism, and bone loss.
In my opinion, most children exhibit behavior that we call “ADHD”. This is especially true of young boys. The symptoms of hyperactivity, short attention span, and physical outbursts are from lack of consistent, engaging physical activity and overstimulation from their high tech lifestyle.
One hundred years ago, as a child, you would have worked on the farm for several hours prior to walking to school. That excess energy was spent before you had to sit in a classroom and try to pay attention.
Even when I was young, we had recess three times a day. When I got home, if my chores were done, I went outside to play. Play was always physical – running, bike riding, and swimming. In the winter, it was snowball fights, ice skating, and sledding.
Today, it’s video games, texting, television, and no recess. The body is at rest, but the mind is over stimulated. Numerous studies show a strong correlation between video games, hyperactivity and even seizures.
The average American takes 4 prescription medications daily. Apparently, we now start them real young. All medications have side effects. I agree with Dr. Adesman, there are alternative therapies that avoid the use of drugs and can actually identify an issue if one exists.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Parents drug their children because it is easier that way. Easier for them, not the children. They do it because it is made available and recommended, especially if it is covered by insurance. We have no idea what the long term ramifications of drugging our youth will be. But it can not be good.