Children and Medications for Mental Health Issues – A Last Resort

Children hiking through the woods
Medicating children for mental health conditions, ADD/ADHD, and other learning disabilities should be an absolute last resort. IMO parents should go to the ends of the earth before taking a chance on medication.

Of course, I’m not a parent so by some people’s reasoning I don’t have a vote in the ongoing debate about children and medication for mental health issues, ADD/ADHD, and other conditions.

Now are children being over-medicated? I haven’t studied the studies, but anecdotally I would bet children are because I believe adults are over medicated. It seems to me that if doctors of all stripes are too quick to prescribe meditations for adults then they are likely – albeit less – to do the same for children.

The reason I am so concerned about possible over-prescribing is that we don’t know enough about the medications and how they impact the brain of an adult. It’s not difficult to find articles discussing hypothesis for why a medication may work and even the documentation that come with many medications indicates that scientists aren’t quite sure why a medication does or doesn’t work on adults.

If we truly understood how they worked, then don’t you think we would have better medications so many years after the Prozac era? So why would we give unproven, less-than-understood medications to developing children unless it was as an absolutely last resort?

Assuming I’m correct, what do we do about it?  Let’s see, the government could spend millions of dollars on another public education campaign or maybe the medical profession should do its job and set strict criteria – albeit voluntary – for the prescription of certain medications.

Among my recommendations:

  • Pediatricians and general practitioners would be restricted in their prescribing habits – perhaps even barred from prescribing mental health medications for children.
  • Psychological examination and testing would be a mandatory pre-requisite for the receipt of such medications. Oh, and screening by school staff is not sufficient, neither is screening by a social worker. I would require it be conducted by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  • Counseling, again by a psychiatrist or psychologist, would be required before a child could be prescribed. At a minimum I would suggest three 1-hour sessions and preferably six sessions.

There is an obvious downside to the above restrictions that I will readily admit: it will almost certainly prevent some children who truly need the medications from getting them due to a lack of parental resources such as time and money.  Furthermore, I have no doubt some specialists would become “pill mills” for getting prescriptions without going through the necessary steps.

So the recommendations aren’t a perfect solution. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the above recommendations should reduce the amount of over-prescribing (protecting many children) as well as combat any suggestion that we really know the long-term impact of such prescribing on a child’s health.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below – but be respectful as hot-button issues often bring out the worst in people.

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