There are a number of parents who are familiar with having been pulled discreetly aside by a teacher or doctor and told that their child’s disruptive behavior needed to be treated with a psychotropic or psychiatric medication.
As a licensed psychotherapist, I treat children whose parents have turned to me for help after having been referred by a teacher or doctor with the recommendation that they put their child on drugs to control their behavior.
Typically, the behavior that the school or physician is concerned with involves conduct that interrupts the flow of the teaching process in the classroom. This behavior could be speaking out of turn, squirming in the chair, getting out of a chair without permission, or other irritating behavior.
Some parents, without questioning the judgment of the education or medical professional, quickly acquiesce and agree to place their child on medication without first considering other viable options. Parents may find it easier to give in rather than to deal with an unhappy teacher.
The mother had been told that the sudden change in her daughter’s behavior was due to a mental illness and not to the severe reactions she experienced because of immunizations.
The mother, who had originally complied with giving her daughter the psychotropic drug, ceased giving it and sought a second medical opinion, when her daughter had a reaction to the psychotropic drug, as well.
Although custody was regained within several weeks, criminal charges for the 10-hour standoff against officials who were trying to remove her daughter and allegations that the mother fired a firearm during this event, were not dropped until some three years later.
Fortunately, the daughter in this case, had a mother who was willing to advocate for her rights against officials who were determined to drug her.
Sadly, advocacy is not often available for one of the most vulnerable groups in America.
America’s foster youth, which estimates put at approximately 400,540 in foster care at any one point, have seen the number of prescribed psychotropic medications increase in recent years, with seemingly little or no concern from advocates or the public in general.
In 2011, it was reported that foster children in five states, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas, received alarming amounts of psychotropic drugs.
The Government Accountability Office report concluded that thousands of foster children were being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration in these five states alone.
The report went on to state that hundreds of foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together.
The report also found, that especially for children, antipsychotics were, by far, the most prescribed.
Antipsychotics are used in the treatment of psychosis, especially schizophrenia, and acute or severe states of mania, depression or paranoia.
The report concluded that the reason for the high rate of use of antipsychotics by children under the care of the child welfare system was not because they were diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, but rather it was due to their ability to make the children docile and easier to manage. In extreme cases, the children became almost zombie-like.
Additionally, the report revealed other causes for concern in prescribing antipsychotics. The children can become suicidal and experience a general worsening of their condition, including depression, anxiety, hostility, aggression, impulsivity and mania.