Young people are being overmedicated and undermined. It is time that we recognize that the deluge of amphetamines and psychotropic drugs being consumed by teenagers may be more of a problem than a solution.
Drug companies are capitalizing off our kids, and why not? They’re the perfect targets. According to a study published in the May/June 2009 issue of Health Affairs, prescriptions for psychiatric drugs increased 50 percent with children in the United States from 1996 to 2006. This is a scary statistic, and one that may be fueled by economic and political forces rather than genuine psychiatric problems among our youth. “Start first with a pharmaceutical industry, that the critics charge, shovels money at the state and federal officials and psychiatric profession in pushing high priced drugs for minors,” wrote Alan Reder in his article “The Other Youth Drug Problem.”
In 2008, psychiatric drug makers raked in a grand total of $29 billion from sales of drugs to treat antidepressant, antipsychotic and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). While CEOs of these corporations are assembling a hefty retirement fund for themselves, they are not the only ones reaping the benefits of this perverse industry. Parents are now able to declare their kids disabled due to mental illness and receive Social Security disability payments and free medical care. In 2006 alone, more money—$8.9 billion—was spent treating mental disorders in the United States in children ages 0-17 than any other ailment. Some critics even claim these drugs are causing the abnormal behaviors that doctors claim show “disability.”
The seriousness of these drugs that we relentlessly feed children seems overlooked. Beginning in May 2007, the FDA required that all anti-depressants have Black Box Warnings. A drug receives a Black Box Warning when studies have shown that it can have extremely dangerous or even deadly side effects. Anti-depressants often have adverse effects such as increasing the thoughts of suicide in people under 25. A Black Box Warning is the FDA’s strongest safety warning, and yet we supply children as young as 10 with antidepressants that carry these labels.
Teen use of ADHD medication opens up a whole different dispute. Face it, mom and dad, your kid can easily abuse commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. They don’t even need a prescription. With a startling number of teens being prescribed drugs like these, they are not hard to get hold of and misuse. These are potent prescriptions. Adderall has a similar chemical makeup to meth-amphetamine, consisting of the same atoms, connected at the same places, just pointed in different directions. Ritalin and cocaine act so much alike that they even compete for the same binding sites on neurons. The accessibility of these drugs is a growing dilemma and should be addressed before our high school students begin to look like the Studio 54 crowd circa 1978.
Today’s teens must stand up and fight for their beliefs and be passionate about living. Instead, kids are being numbed to their own potential and individuality by these “fix-it” drugs. Our society is not teaching young people how to behave productively in society; it is teaching them addiction and instilling them with the belief that they are damaged. This must end. Medication is robbing our children of their childhoods—and their futures.