invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

just say no November 6, 2006

“just say no”

the slogan was championed by nancy reagan. the campaign was part of the united states “war on drugs” and prevalent during the 1980s and early 1990s, discouraging children from engaging in recreational drug use.

today we are dealing with a different kind of drug. psychiatric drugs. and doctors are saying yes. over and over. pharmaceutical companies are pushing them. if a child or teenager is depressed or anxious, even though it is situational, they are prescribed a psychiatric drug. or two. or three. or in some cases, eleven. and sometimes they lead to death. like in this case:

(names have been changed here…)
when 13-year-old luisa began complaining of stomachaches, her mother, eva, did what a good mom does-drove her to the pediatrician. after an exam, the doctor agreed with luisa that her stomach pain was likely caused by anxiety. he precribed a psychiatric medicine, zoloft, commonly given to adults to ease depression. when her parents asked about side effects, the doctor reassured them the drug was mild. “if she needed something strong, i would have sent her to a psychiatrist,” he said.

over the next few weeks, luisa-previously a happy, social girl who got along well with her mother, according to oscar, her father- became combative with eva. she often got violent, threatening her mother physically. four weeks after she started with the medication, luisa hanged herself in her home. her parents later learned that zoloft and other so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were well known within the research community to cause suicidal thinking and behavior in young people.

it disturbs me that i read this in the december issue of alternative medicine. the people who should be reading this article are most likely not subscribers to this magazine. people need to hear these stories. people need to question their doctors’ motives and quite possibly take it a step further. send a message to the pharma companies, the doctors, the insurance companies. they’re making millions, billions of dollars off these medications. the process of diagnosing and prescribing should be a lengthy one. and the diagnosis and prescriptions should come from a psychiatrist, not a pediatrician. not your family doctor. parents should just say no to a quickie diagnosis.

tragedies like these occur with startling frequency in this country. behind this we have a pharmaceutical industry that shovels money at state and federal officials and the psychiatric profession to buy their help in pushing high priced drugs for minors. the most frequently prescribed drugs can cause horrific side effects and in cases like luisa’s, death.

the articles goes on to question the mental health screeening program, TeenScreen. a 14-item questionnaire designed to be completed in about ten minutes. defenders praise the program as a godsend to families, helping prevent suicide and identifying youths needing help. critics say the program is a tool used to herd misdiagnosed teens into the clutches of Big Pharma. (the program yields 84% false positives…) i have to agree with the critics. most teens go through periods of depression, anxiety, etc…but it doesn’t mean we throw meds at them. this practice is dangerous. the article also discusses the dangers of the new line of meds-atypical antipsychotics.

i must be clear- i’m not anti-drugs. (although i am against prescribing antipsychotics for depression or bipolar, unless for short-term use). i’m medicated and most likely will be the rest of my life. BUT we must question these doctors. these pharmaceutical companies. i would guess more than half of the patients taking these medications DO NOT need them. especially the children. and teens. even scarier we don’t know the long-term side effects of these drugs. studies are proving that the antipsychotics have dangerous, if not deadly, side effects. if parents don’t want to “just say no”, they should at least be certain their child is mentally ill before filling the prescription. a silly questionnaire is not a diagnosis. and yet, for some reason, it is today. it saddens me. it angers me. it scares the hell out of me.

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