pill poppin’ before kindergarten

Kindergarten. 1983. Remember? Table 1, table 2, table 3, table 4? Name tags made from paper bees hanging around your neck. Circle time, snack time, rest time, and lunch time. Singing songs, painting, and duck, duck, goose. You catch my drift. All your little friends sharing and playing puppet show with you. Listening attentively to the teacher and obeying the rules. Gold stars for good behavior. Learning how to tie your shoes.

Kindergarten. 2011. Repeat all of the above, circa 1983 Kindergarten. Additions include: Dramatic increases in learning disabilities, behavior disorders, restlessness, moodiness, ADD, ODD, depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.

In fact more and more preschoolers and kindergarteners are being diagnosed with psychiatric disorders and are being put on prescription medication. It seems like more kids today are learning how to swallow pills before they learn their ABC’s. A 2007 study found about one preschooler in 70 was taking a psychiatric drug, such as a stimulant, an anti-depressant, a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, or an anti-anxiety drug. More than 1 in 4 children in the US now take regular prescription drugs, according to Medco Health Solutions, Inc.

Medco’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Epstein explains:

“Children are receiving anti-psychotics with greater frequency and that may be because they are viewed as less dangerous than the older medications and can be helpful for conditions that were previously treated with other medications. However, these drugs are not without their risks. There is evidence that the risk of diabetes and metabolic disorders from using atypical antipsychotics could be much more severe for pediatric patients than adults, and there is a need for more studies to understand the long-term effects of these drugs on children.”

A recent Parenting Magazine article states:

In spite of the growing number of young kids taking psychiatric drugs, these medications (with a few exceptions) are not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children under age 6. Why? Because little is known about how they affect the tiny brains and bodies of young children.

“We have very little research to show how psychiatric medications affect the developing nervous system, for instance,” says Dr. Olfson, a Columbia University psychiatrist and researcher. “This is a concern.”

Anti-psychotics are linked to rapid weight gain and metabolic and endocrine abnormalities. In one study, kids ages 2 to 6 gained an average of 19 pounds in less than 12 weeks on one anti-psychotic drug regimen.

The article also tells the heart wrenching and disturbing story of four-year-old Shelby:

 As the sun rises over Phoenix, 4-year-old Shelby wakes. She sleepily uses the potty, dutifully washes her hands, and then accepts a white capsule from her mother.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl swallows the medicine easily. “And then she’s off—to take care of the pets, play with play dough, and just be Shelby,” says her mother.

The capsule contains 20 milligrams (mg) of Ritalin (methylphenidate), the prescription stimulant used to calm and focus children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After dinner, Shelby takes more meds — 2.5 mg of Abilify and .05 mg of clonidine. The preschooler has been on daily medication since she was 2.

This is what its come down to in the US today. Problem. Medicate. Problem. Medicate. Side effect. Medicate. Side effect. Medicate. What are the repercussions? How can we possibly see drugs as a solution? Pretty soon we will have a nation filled with over-weight, doped up toddlers mindlessly drooling while singing Row Row Row Your Boat. Oh wait, we already do.

~let’s support the health of our children, together.~

dr. lisa

BOO! Wake UP!

Ahh Halloween is upon us again. What a nostalgic time for parents. Pumpkins, hayrides, and apple picking. Memories of dressing up in costume, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and oodles and oodles of goodies and treats. Halloween parties galore! At school, at home, and at the neighbors! Wonderful memories and experiences that we eagerly and excitedly want to pass on to our children. I mean, why wouldn’t we? Our kids should be able to go door-to-door and stuff their faces with candy and chocolate and cookies just like we did when we were young. Halloween is a tradition, people. One day out of the year spent supporting and encouraging poor dietary habits amongst our children can’t harm them, right?

The problem is that for most children in the US it’s not just one day, it’s every day. Every day our children are bombarded with ads for crap food and sugary drinks. Fundraisers at school for cookie dough, frozen pizzas, potato chips, and chocolate candy. Sponge Bob and Dora spewed all over every fruit gummy treat in the store. Colored food products targeted to children around every corner. From popsicles and colored goldfish crackers to Fruit Loops cereal, yogurt, and M&M’s. The brighter the better, right? For marketing, yes. For our kids’ health, not so much.

Recent studies linking food coloring to hyperactivity and ADHD in kids is causing some experts to call on the FDA to ban foods containing them – or at least require a warning label. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) says the dyes are a “Rainbow of Risks” for children and can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer. I must point out that 1 in 17 children have allergies in the US, 1 in 10 have ADHD, and 1 in 5 are obese. Despite those concerns, manufacturers put about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes into our foods each year, according to the group. Per capita consumption of dyes has risen five-fold since 1955, thanks in part to the proliferation of brightly colored cereals, fruit drinks, and candies pitched to children.

Paralleling these findings, between 2001 and 2007, the number of 2-to-5-year-olds on anti-psychotic medications for behavioral problems doubled. A 2007 study found about 1 in 70 preschoolers was taking a psychotropic drug such as a stimulant, an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, or an anti-anxiety drug. According to the  National Institutes of Health (NIH): About 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 has some sort of mental disorder, be it anxiety, mood, or disruptive behavior disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Honestly, I think our children deserve better. Countries in the European Union (EU) have banned most dyes and require labeling of foods containing particular synthetic dyes linked to behavioral problems in children. The Mars Company has removed all artificial dyes from Starburst Chews and Skittles, and has begun removing all dyes from M&M’s in the UK, but not in the US. Requests for a UK ban followed more than three decades of growing science associating exposure to food additives with a heap of potentially serious problems in children including not only hyperactivity, but also cognitive disturbances and compulsive aggression; asthma, hives, and allergies; and irritability and poor sleeping habits. Many usable alternatives clearly exist, but the US hasn’t decided to take action just yet. I wonder how many more chronically ill children it will take before the FDA steps up in this country?

Not just on Halloween this year, but every day ask yourself how you can contribute to creating a healthier environment for our children. Start with avoiding synthetic dyes by reading labels and choosing organic products. Organic standards prohibit the use of these dyes in products bearing the USDA Organic label and use natural food colorings from beets, carrots, seaweed, spinach, grapes, turmeric, and blueberries. Oh and…

BOO! WAKE UP! The kids are counting on you!

to. happy. healthy. days. ahead.