Are We Hooking Our Kids on Drugs?

Wayne Jackson
This essay is a discussion of the growing trend of drug treatment for children.

What’s going on in this country? Thousands and thousands of our youngest children are now being sedated. Parents can’t control them. They can’t motivate them. They don’t understand them. They can’t cope with them. They are frustrated, and at their wits’ end as to what to do.

And so what do they do? All too frequently, at the behest of some doctor, they put their little ones on drugs.

Dr. Julie Magno Zito of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore has discovered that as many as 1.5% of American children between the ages of two and four are already on such controlling substances as Ritalin—as well as being medicated with antidepressants and other psychosis directed drugs. The use of drug stimulants climbed two-to-threefold between 1991 and 1995, and antidepressant prescriptions nearly doubled during the same period.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a growing concern about this trend, and a five million dollar research program has been initiated to study the impact of psychiatric drugs on children.

According to an article by Charles W. Schmidt, appearing in the September, 2000 issue of Child magazine, there has been an increase of some twenty-two percent in antidepressant drugs for children under the age of ten since 1995. Many medical experts are becoming increasingly alarmed about the long-term effects of this drug treatment.

What is the reason for this surge of drug therapy? Why are there now so many more new supposed disorders than there were just a few decades ago? The physicians themselves are baffled.

Dr. Barry Zuckerman of the Boston University School of Medicine, says:

Kids do seem to be more out of control. For over a decade there have been observations among teachers and pediatricians of increasing behavioral disturbances in children. We don’t know if it has to do with changing communities, family structure, TV, video games, or anything else, but there is the perception that behavioral disturbances are on the rise.

Undoubtedly the causative factors are complex and diverse, but we offer the following thoughts for reflection:

(1) There obviously are some children that are afflicted with naturally generated genetic deficiencies or chemical imbalances, or else they have been mentally impaired in some unintentional manner.

Youngsters damaged in this fashion truly may need responsible drug treatment. We strongly believe, however, that this segment of our young population is a minority element.

(2) Society is inheriting a vast number of “drug babies,” products of an irresponsible mob of dopeheads who are descendants of the hippy culture. The nation has sown to the drug wind, and it is reaping a whirlwind crop of innocent children who are scarred for life. Drug abuse may indeed be a life sentence for many of these unfortunate children.

(3) Some children are out of control and extremely difficult to manage because they have suffered the trauma of broken homes, parental abuse, etc. The younger ones scream for attention; the older ones are searching for identity in all the wrong places. They have never received adequate mom-and-dad nurturing.

Parents have been too busy and more preoccupied with personal interests than to be bothered with patiently training their children. In many cases the child’s diet and sleep habits are unsupervised and aberrant. Accordingly, sedating these youngsters with drugs has become a quick-fix method of control.

(4) For older children, there is little doubt that the influence of countless hours in front of the TV has taken its toll. Kids cannot concentrate. They are disinterested in school work. They have no purpose. Generally, they have few, if any, responsibilities. They are confused and depressed.

About the first thing some frustrated parents resort to is having the family physician put them on a drug—when the drug is not what they actually need. But they may need (read that, be addicted to) the substance henceforth.

(5) Unfortunately, many doctors are so busy they do not take the time for a thorough evaluation of the disturbed child’s problems. It has become fashionable to diagnose almost every sort of erratic behavior as psychologically based.

The incidence of so-called ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder), for example, has skyrocketed in recent years. It is now estimated that 2.5 million American children have this “illness.” It is said to be the most common pediatric mental illness in the nation today.

Doctors feel pressured by parents to do something to alleviate the chaos that is occurring in many homes. Too, the drug companies have made their products so readily available, accompanied by glowing promises and promotions, that some physicians see drug treatment as the quickest and easiest way to address the problem in their hectic world.

Many parents, we believe, as well-intentioned as they are, are unaware of the forces they are unleashing in the lives of their children. Perhaps a re-evaluation is needed—before it is too late.

We have no interest whatsoever in denying parents appropriate medical treatment for their children when such is justified. But would it not be a terrible thing to impose drug dependency upon your children when there was no actual need?

Many specialists believe that children are particularly vunerable to drug addiction—much more so than are adults. While a youngster’s brain is still growing, there are powerful chemical forces at work that are unique to this period of life. It is, therefore, extremely important to safeguard children from the unnecessary use of habit-forming drugs.

If a physician recommends drug treatment, it might pay a parent rich dividends to get a second opinion. Especially might one be wise in attempting to find a doctor who entertains Christian values; he or she may not be as prone to the quick fix treatment program as those who are materialisticly oriented.

Your children are a precious possession. Care for them wisely.