Are Medications for Children's Emotional Conditions Overused?
Few questions related to children’s mental health are more controversial than whether psychotropic medications are over prescribed for children. There is no doubt about the dramatic increase in their rise and the efforts of the pharmaceutical industry to market them. Are these trends helping or harming children?
A recent study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy notes that 8 million American children are now receiving psychotropic medication, and that the weight of the evidence is that most medications provide only short-term benefit. What is a parent to do?
Our view has always been a pragmatic one. Some children with certain conditions—such as early childhood schizophrenia or unequivocal bipolar disorder—need medication, perhaps even on a permanent basis. Others—and these represent the large majority of children who receive medication—may achieve some benefit if only in the short run. If the risks are small and there is current benefit, using medication may make good sense in a given situation. Children with ADHD illustration this situation in which the risks are small and temporary benefit may occur, particularly those children with ADHD who are just inattentive and have good control of their impulses.
Whether medication is used or not, the more important issue in most situations is whether parents have in place a treatment program that can make a real and lasting difference. Whether receiving medication or not, children often need psychotherapy to make true changes and parents need guidance as well. The major problem that we see with medication is that although symptoms may be controlled for the time being, vital psychotherapy is too often delayed while problems fester and turn into more difficult-to-treat situations.
– Mental Health Matters! is written by the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood and posted on the Carolina Parent Magazine's website, the Triangle's family resource - in print for over 21 years! And online at www.carolinaparent.com.