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Are We Overmedicating Our Young People?


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From time to time, the mass media and social media raise the question if we are over medicating our young people, especially children. With the increase in awareness of mental health problems such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the different types of anxiety disorders, and the use of drugs in such cases, the question of overmedication is the more relevant.

Sometimes, these young people started taking medications as young as the tender age of 4 or 5. The drugs include antidepressant, antipsychotic and psychostimulant medications. It seems that many of these drugs are becoming household names as the use of drugs among young people continues to soar. For example, the use of antidepressants among children and adolescents increased threefold between 1987 and 1996.

Whilst psychotropic medications are more generously prescribed in the USA, there is also an increasing trend for Australian doctors to prescribe drugs to children and adolescents. Like their counterparts in the USA, these young people take medications for their depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. What should parents do when confronted with the decision to medicate their young ones or not? Let’s consider some important facts that are helpful:

  • Medication can be helpful in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. In fact, medication can be life saving. For example, many depressed young people have aborted their suicide plan after taking antidepressants.
  • Medication and psychological therapy together is more effective than medication by itself.
  • Modifying environmental factors may help to alleviate the severity of the disorders in the young person’s life. For example, reducing stress in the family may lessen the young person’s anxiety.
  • Anxiety disorders, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are chronic debilitating illnesses and need to be treated vigorously.

Before you allow your child to be medicated, please ensure that:

  • The doctor has explored with you the other alternatives and medication is the best option for your child.
  • The doctor is fully experienced to use that particular type of medication.
  • The doctor has discussed with you the full management plan which includes other modalities of treatment.
  • You are aware of the properties of the medication and you are completely informed of any possible adverse effects.

If you are unhappy, you should seek a second or even a third opinion. Your child is precious. Research on the neuroplasticity of the human brain shows that the human brain continues to develop and grow in its cognitive and emotional functions beyond puberty. So, we have to treat it with care.

In the event that your young ones need medication, always ask if there is any psychological self-help tool that you can use to help your young ones.


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