Our society has become very challenging and within those challenges a trend has begun to take hold – too many of our young children are being placed on medication. According to Dr. Peter Breggin, M.D., psychiatrist and medical expert, writing for the Huffington Post states that America is using Ritalin more than five times the usage of the world combined. Ten percent of our nation’s children have been diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD, and for treatment more than 5 million children are using Ritalin or other stimulants such as Adderall, Dexadrine, Concerta and Focalin. There have been yearly reports of children taking more than the recommended dose of Ritalin and other stimulants resulting in overdose, and children aged 6 through 9 are at the greatest risk of overdose.
These statistics scare me and the fact that we are giving drugs known to be amphetamines to our children with growing minds and bodies is unthinkable. In Chapter ten of Dr. Breggin’s book The Ritalin Fact Book states, “no antidepressants are approved for treatment of depression in children because they don’t work and because they cause mental and physical problems in children.” But yet, we are giving this medication to children like we give them vitamins. How can we, as a society, allow this to happen to our greatest asset – our children?
When parents come to my office in search of answers they have either been pressured by their child’s school to place their child on medication for ADD or their child has already been on some form of medication and they have been witnessing the side effects in their child, such as agitation, hostility, and depression, lack of sleep, not eating, and weight loss. Imagine what can happen to these children when they are on such medication for an extended period of time?
Parents are at a loss as schools have pushed medication as the answer, neurologists have recommended it and pediatricians are writing prescriptions for it. The Pharmaceutical industry has been very effective at promoting the story that medication will solve any attention deficit problem and our society has been buying into it.
In this column I want to share a belief that I feel strongly about – to be an Evolved Parent requires you to Educate before you Medicate your child, and sometimes that is very difficult to do. We tend to use the internet as our sole source of information to educate ourselves, but most of the information on the internet is produced by the pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves.
Take Sarah for example. A very educated mother who owned her own business, Sarah called me a couple years ago because she didn’t know where to turn and was feeling out of control. Her son’s school had pushed her into medicating her son, she was now getting mixed reports from school about his behavior. At the same time her son was not eating or sleeping, he was losing weight and dark circles were beginning to form under his eyes. He was already a small child for his age and the last thing he needed was to lose any more weight.
" ...to be an Evolved Parent requires you to
Educate before you Medicate your child..."
Sarah had never wanted to put her son on medication, but the school was insisting. So she did her research by scouring the internet for information about the medication, but had not been able to find anything negative. She was also given several names of parents to call who already had their children on medication and those parents had reassured her with their positive results.
Despite all this, Sarah still felt this wasn’t the right avenue for her son. But she succumbed to the pressure nonetheless. When she went to her pediatrician for the prescription he told her that her son didn’t need to take the medication during the winter and spring holidays! When she followed this advice; however, she saw the worst side effects in her son. He was going through withdrawal and she didn’t know what to do. When she called the doctor he said that was normal!
When I started working with the family I recommended Dr. Breggin’s first book Talking Back to Ritalin, for advice on how to wean her son off the medication. I also shared with her my own insights into how highly intelligent, very creative and bored her son was within the normal classroom. We then worked together to give her strength to advocate for her son within the school system. Shortly afterwards I gave her Dr. Breggin’s newest book suggesting she pay special attention to the chapters titled “How to Withdraw from Stimulants,” and “When the School says your child has a problem.” Sarah was mad and wanted to know where this book was when she was trying to find information about NOT putting her son on medication in the first place.
The fact is, the resources are out there. Parents just have to keep looking! Another educated mother, who travels a lot for work, called me to say that her son Joe had been on Ritalin for a few years because of an attention deficit that was the cause of his reading problem. Again, giving in to pressure from his school, she put her son on medication. Now, a few years later, he still was not reading well and his school was talking about increasing his medication.
The challenge we face in our society is that we have bought into the concept that a pill will solve all problems. The reality is that nothing gets solved overnight. And by taking a pill the problem is only masked and never solved. In this case, Joe was having difficulty reading, yet taking a pill was not helping him to read, thus, other actions needed to be put in place instead. His parents and I felt that, instead of helping him to read, the medication was actually causing further difficulty.
Again, the actions I recommended were first, to wean Joe off the medication, with the help of his pediatrician. We then advocated for different services for Joe in school. However, once we discovered what a negative effect the school was having on Joe, we decided to seek an alternative school. Now Joe is in a school he loves and where he is blossoming. He is off medication and his reading is much improved.
"...we have bought into the concept that
a pill will solve all problems."
Obviously, while there clearly are some children who suffer from ADD, the numbers are not as great as are being led to believe, and not all of these children require amphetamines to solve their problem.
My call to action is for parents to not let anyone push them into believing that medicating their child is “the answer.” Instead you should question all professional and medical people that say stimulants and anti-depression medication is the best action for solving your child’s problem. Read Dr. Breggin’s books regarding these medications, and search out the “whys” of the problem before deciding on a course of action. There are many reasons for depression, there are many conflicts and contradictions in the understanding of ADD, thus I would suggest it is far better to first search out holistic answers to the problems rather than merely masking it with a pill. Remember – today’s children are forcing old systems to change. My advice to parents is, be a part of the wave of change, not a part of the system. © 2009 Tracey T. Serebin
Tracey Serebin is a Family Coach specializing in relationships and communication with her own practice in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She is a Family Educator with The Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, NJ, is a Relationship/New Parent Expert for Let’s Talk Baby, Tracey has published two books and hosts a Radio show entitled Family Matters on WebTalkRadio.net while conducting motivational seminars across the country. www.TraceySerebin.com or 888-261-7177.