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The Over-Prescribing of Psychoactive Drugs to Children: A Scourge of Our Times

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Today, the administration of psychoactive drugs to children (6-17) is all too common and growing at an alarming rate. These drugs often cause the opposite of the intended effect, often condemning children to a life of misery and ill health. The prescription of these drugs is said to treat "chemical imbalances" which were said to cause ADHD, Depression and Bi-polar disorder. It turns out, however, that what we were calling "disease-causing chemical imbalances," is simply incorrect . The sad irony is, the inappropriate use of these medications is in fact creating different chemical imbalances, which do cause mental disorders, many of which are both life-long and debilitating.

Furthermore, it is now clear that often we are diagnosing ordinary childhood and adolescent behavior as mental disorders (Wait, children are supposed to be bursting with energy? It's normal for a teenager to be moody and aloof?). This diagnosing is not only based on this idea of "chemical imbalances," but also a general and pervasive notion that every non-acceptable behavior is due to a mental illness. And last, but certainly not least, the prescribing of these medications by doctors is based on the disinformation provided them by the FDA, drug manufactures and often fraudulent studies, all in the name of making money, on the backs of our children.

In a recent lecture, respected journalist, writer and Nobel Prize Nominee, Robert Whitaker (PBS, Boston, June 15, 2010) highlighted not only the appallingly unscientific methodology used in the development, prescription and use of psychotropic drugs in school-aged children, but also how hopelessly corrupt and failed the systems that should be regulating the safety of medicines are in this country.

Unfortunately, many drug companies exist for one reason: to make money. As such, the people who run these companies have developed a worldview bereft of any more notion of ethics or morality than British Petroleum. Some drug companies' success is not based on a drug's usefulness or the safety of its products, but whether it makes money. The path to more money is simple: find new uses for their old drugs, invent new drugs and find new markets for both new and old drugs. Unfortunately, children are today's newest market.

The FDA requires a "Successful Drug Trial" to approve new medications. "Trial" is often a misnomer, as the word implies some notion of impartiality and unknown outcome. These "trials" often are more like kangaroo courts. In one "trial," in this case to prove the usefulness of Prozac, corruption and dishonesty were the rule. Children who responded to placebos were removed from the data, as were negative responders to the actual drug. This meant that the only children who were left in the study group were so-called "positive responders." And, even then, the researchers and doctors, whose "research" funding was provided by the makers of Prozac, were the very ones to decide which subjects, if any, actually did respond "positively" to the drug. This, of course, is a massive conflict of interest. The doctors, researchers and drug companies all want the same thing -- FDA approval and to make more money.

In a 2004 article published in perhaps the most prestigious British medical journal, Lancet, said the trial studies used to provide proof of the usefulness of anti-depressant drugs in children, were "nothing but fraudulent." Following that assessment, all anti-depressants but Prozac were banned in the UK for use on children. (The fact that Prozac was not banned was based on very dubious, some say dishonest, research as documented above).

The true damage caused by the use of anti-depressant drugs like Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, etc. (AKA of SSRI's: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) by school-aged children is only found by legitimate, longer studies, like those that continued from 17 months to six years. In one study, 25 percent of children who had been on SSRI's for three years were re-diagnosed with the much more serious disorder of Bi-polar disease. This number increased to 50 percent after six years of SSRI use. Long-term use of new anti-psychotics may lead to even greater problems than the initial disease. Diabetes, morbid obesity and early death have all been linked to the use of these drugs. And, as written by us in a previous blog both short and long term use of stimulant drugs such as Adderall), have numerous serious side effects.

What should be a major concern, especially for parents, is the ever-widening definition of what constitutes a childhood mental disorder, a "chemical imbalance" and what, if any, drugs should even be considered to treat these "imbalances." They should also be very concerned about whether these drugs even work (most don't), and, even more importantly, the long-term outcome of the use of these drugs.

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