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