Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Medicating children

Frontline aired an eye-opening segment last night called “The Medicated Child,” which looks at the increasing numbers of children who are being diagnosed with serious psychiatric disorders and the medications that are being prescribed to them despite the fact that they’ve undergone little or no testing in children (since running clinical trials on children is a risky and ethically problematic affair). You can watch the program online or just read about it here. Rob and I exchanged skeptical looks as we watched toddlers diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wondered to ourselves whether a good 70 percent of toddlers aren’t naturally bipolar. Tantrums and elation seem like pretty normal mood swings to us these days. It’s the controversy around childhood diagnoses of bipolar disorder (which have shot up 4,000 percent in the past 10 years, according to Frontline) that is the most heated issue in this exposé. I’m no psychiatrist, and I’m sure that many of these medications are of great benefit to the kids who take them, but as a parent, it probably makes sense to stay tuned to reports like these and make all decisions about how to cope with childhood mental illness critically.

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