The use of prescribed medication for kids with learning, behavior and mood problems is a highly contentious issue and one that causes parents, healthcare practitioners and educators to have heated disagreements. I am opposed to medication as the first line of treatment. I strongly advocate using medication as a last resort and not the automatic and immediate knee-jerk response for a child who has cognitive or behavioral symptoms. In truth, I am not totally opposed to medication. For children who display cognitive, behavior and mood symptoms on the severe end of the continuum, a combination of the drug and drug-free approaches may be necessary.
For parents, making this decision comes down to being able to answer these questions:
- Do I want to get to the bottom of, and put an end to, my child’s problems? OR
- Do I want to use medication to suppress these problems? Am I okay knowing that medication will hide, but not heal, the problem?
A Special Note for Parents Who Have Chosen to Medicate
If you are a parent giving your child medication and happy with the positive changes in your child’s life, don’t feel offended by my point of view. I do not judge your decision as being bad or wrong. My philosophy is that medication should be a last resort, but whatever your reasons may be for choosing to medicate, I respect and honor that your decision feels right for you in your circumstances. I would like to believe that you can still benefit from the information I share in this and other articles.
Quote from Dr Sandy Gluckman’s book: Parents, Take Charge: Chapter 2; page 16
In spite of incredible medical progress and advancement, millions of children continue to suffer with learning, behavior and mood symptoms that hold them back from being the best they can be academically, emotionally and socially. And the numbers are growing each day. The good news is that healthcare is in the process of being reinvented… There is a new generation of healthcare practitioners who recognize the limitations of conventional medicine. These modern practitioners are revolutionizing the treatment of children with learning, behavior and mood challenges with a groundbreaking treatment approach referred to as functional medicine, which is the fastest growing field in medicine today. Functional medicine is transforming the lives of children and their families by creating real health and healing.
Consider These Facts about Medication
For some children, the short-term impact of medication seems so positive that parents tend to block out any thoughts about long-term implications. They just want the symptoms to go away so that their child can be happy. Medicating children can be a huge relief for parents, particularly if you believe, as I do, that a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child. Oh, the joy of hearing that your child is doing well at school, of watching them make friends and having less upheavals at home, and having to deal with fewer meltdowns. So, why wouldn’t all parents choose to medicate? Why would a parent even consider the drug-free option?
Some information for you to consider:
- There is something happening somewhere in the child’s body that has triggered the learning, behavior or mood problems, but nobody is looking for this underlying root cause. This means that when you medicate the externally evident symptoms, the underlying cause of the problems remains untreated and will continue to effect the child.
- Decisions about drug treatment for children should be based on clear evidence of the safety and effectiveness of these drugs. We do not have this clear evidence, however, because understandably, parents do not want to submit their children to drug tests – so we do not yet know the long-term biomedical and neurochemical effects of many of the drugs children take for learning, behavior and mood problems.
- Medicated kids learn that if you have a problem, you take a tablet to fix it. This kind of belief system will, most likely, follow them into adulthood and they will pass this belief onto their children. When the treatment of choice is medication, children are unlikely to learn the truth that there is nothing “wrong” with them and that their symptoms can be fixed in healthy ways.
- The effects of stimulants on children with attention problems have been shown to fade over time. Among many others, a report on a comprehensive follow-up study at Montreal Children’s Hospital discovered that: …At the end of five years, hyperkinetic children who received drugs (either Ritalin or Chloropromazine) did not differ significantly from children who had not received the drugs. Although it appeared that hyperactive children treated with Ritalin were initially more manageable, the degree of improvement and emotional adjustment were essentially identical at the end of five years to that seen in a group of children with the same problems who had received no medication at all.
- Many children suffer physical and emotional side effects that make life even harder for them. Some of the known side effects for stimulants include loss of appetite, weight loss, insomnia, reduced stature, tics, “zombie” demeanor, stomach aches, serious vision problems, mood or behavior changes, seizures, confusion, respiratory and cardiac effects.
- The drugs prescribed for ADHD/ADD are closely related to some illegal street drugs. These include dextroamphetamine (street name, “dexies”), methamphetamine (street name, crystal meth) and cocaine. In his book, ADHD: Drug-free and Doin’ Fine, Lawrence Weathers writes: It is indeed an irony that we imprison people for making or selling drugs that are very similar to the drugs we prescribe for ADHD children.
- A high percentage of children who have been medicated for learning or behavior problems gravitate to non-prescription harder drugs.
Medication Can Drug your Child’s Spirit
If there were only one reason to use medication as a last resort, for me it would be this: The drugs prescribed for learning, behavior and mood challenges can chemically blunt the child’s spirit. Some children become quiet and subdued. Parents often use the words “robot-like” or “zombie” to describe how their child appears on medication. Many say they see a personality change in the child. Medicated kids can feel disconnected from the power of their true inner spirit. Children with dulled, medicated spirits will find it difficult to become self-confident, bold, independent thinkers who are successful in life.
Kids need a healthy, strong, and vibrant spirit to be resilient and courageous and determined. They need a vibrant spirit to help them build positive self-belief, and a clear sense of their unique identity. They need a lively spirit to help them feel good about themselves, be proud of whom they are and to recognize and use their unique talents.
Quote from Robert Whitaker’s book: Anatomy of an Epidemic: Chapter 16; page 333:
The real question regarding psychiatric medications is this: When and how should they be used? The drugs may alleviate symptoms over the short term, and there are some people who may stabilize well over the long term on them, and so clearly there is a place for drugs in psychiatry’s toolbox. However a “best” use paradigm of care would require … the psychiatric establishment to think about the medications in a scientifically honest way and to speak honestly about them to the public. If psychiatry did that, it could figure out how to use the medications judiciously and wisely, and everyone in our society would understand the need for alternative therapies that don’t rely on the medications or at least minimize their use.
Consider these facts and let us know what you think about this important subject.