On Deciding to Medicate Your Children (Or Yourself)

9 comments

Recently an article was sent to me reporting on the fact that the amount of psychotropic medication being prescribed to young people has doubled in the last five years. While somewhat appalling, it does not totally surprise me. This subject is near and dear to my heart as I work with these children and families and often, by their request, counsel them on making decisions around using these drugs.

Psychotropic medications are thought of as low risk in many medical communities. When a family finds something unmanageable, often doctors are quick to prescribe, even if the ‘unmanageability’ is clearly connected to a context and the person’s response is appropriate to the context.

Actually, sometimes it seems that if people have a reason to be distraught, like a loss or a traumatic event, doctors are more apt to prescribe medicine. Isn’t this odd? Not really. The drugs are viewed as low risk to health, while trauma is viewed as high risk to health. Also, doctors are often wonderful humans who strive to be helpful. When they hear of the hard times of patients, they want to be helpful, prescribing meds is one way they can do this. Nobody likes to feel helpless, least of all those that commit their lives to helping people.

deciding to medicate your children

In navigating conversations on deciding to medicate your children, I remain nonjudgmental, but never neutral. Pharmaceuticals like people to think of medicine as definitively necessary. Often touting: “If you have diabetes you need insulin. If you are depressed, you need SSRI’s.” This might dispel stigma, but it also sells drugs. I often question the whole “chemical imbalanced” story told often by medical professionals and drug commercials. Our brain chemical and hormones are in constant flux, changing moment by moment. It is ridiculous to say anyone is “imbalanced” as we are each of us in various states of chemical balance throughout the day. Yes, when we are sad our hypothalamus released “sad” peptides.

Medications can be extremely beneficial, and it may be a good decision to use them. They can help a person transform their life. And they can help literally save a life. But these people usually do more than just take the medicine. The medicine may give them the leg up so that they can do other work to heal whatever ails them emotionally. And sometimes, they might not have gotten there without it. This still doesn’t mean that they needed it. (This is another effective way to get rid of stigma! As many people feel horrible at the concept of “needing” medicine.) It means it was a great decision for them to chose as one of their tools. (More empowering.) A decision, once made, I encourage them to embrace and be grateful for. If you are going to take medicine, say “yes!” to taking it.

That said, I also agree they may be sometimes prescribed hastily. (Not always, some docs are extremely cautious.) It is the risks that are being pushed under the rug. ‘Low risk’ is a relative term, as some medications have much more dangerous side effects.

However, many more risks exist: we might ignore the context of the problem which may deserve our attention (violence in school, etc), we don’t know the long term effects of young people using these medications; misuse (i.e., selling) of prescription drugs is rampant in today’s schools; drugs might harbor a person from processing events with other tools that might benefit them more; they can instigate a person’s self judgment; they aren’t natural and have to be processed by the liver; they cost money; and they go into our water ways in our toilet waste, to mention a few.

These are all relative in the context of what a family is going through. They may seem important sometimes, and other times less important, depending on how much it is effecting their life to be sad, depressed, hear voices, panic and/or have flashbacks and what else they are doing to make it through.

Deciding to medicate your children is a family or personal decision based on weighing the risks and benefits, rather by being convinced it is necessary as a quick fix. The choice being made this way gives less opportunity for stigma and self judgment to reared its ugly head. I appreciate when families and professionals see it this way. No stigma, no overuse. Nonjudgmental peace about it all and a willingness to participate in your own healing, instead of being a passive recipient of the trauma… or the drugs.


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9 Comments

Allison

Well, my dear Jodi, you always seem to blog about something so prevelant in my own personal life. I would like to share a snap shot of a story-well, actually I had wanted to with so many for so long. Many close friends know this, but I feel compelled maybe to help others (will be a great chapter in a book that I would like to write in the near future). Years ago, I had “fallen” into a major depression. I had experienced episodes of this my whole life. I never really knew why, as I grew up in a household where feelings were never validated. Anyway, I sought therapy for this as I knew the warning signs, and ultimately was “forced” on medication. I put the quotes in as that is what I thought it was at the time. I was seeing a Freudian therapist who quite honestly, looking back, was doing way more harm than good. Hindsight is 20-20! :0) Anyway, I went against my core, my heart, and my belief in my own wellness business and company out of fear of being terminated by this therapist. She told me that if I did not go on meds, that I would be terminated. Long story short, I went to a psychiatrist who immediately put me on 2 drugs. They didn’t work, so she kept switching me. Over the course of 6 months, I literally had tried over a dozen different meds and combo of meds. The side effects were horrible-trememendous weight gain, shift in personality, at times I literally felt comatosed, to name a few. At one time, a combo of 2 different ones landed me in the hospital for 8 days, and another with a DWI under drugs. Yes, you can get a DWI for prescribed drugs(even if your doctor knows you work and have to drive to get there!). That is another crazy story in itself. Here is my point. I thought that I was pushed, actually threatened into these meds. For me, they did nothing but harm. I knew in my heart that there were other ways, but out of fear of abandonment, I gave in. I, too, believe that medication is necessary in certain circumstances. Yes, you are right, they serve a purpose, but so so so so soooooo over prescribed. In closing, I look back and am thankful for my experiences. I cannot blame anyone for any of this, not even my former therapist, nor the doctor. I used to play the victim role well. I was at the scene of each “crime”. Now, I accept 100% responsibility for it all. I was the one who said “yes” to the meds. I was the one who took them. I was the one who held on to that therapist for 3 years. Cool thing? As a result of me owning, learning and growing from it all, I am on the right path to health, happiness, joy and prosperity. It is a journey. No coincidences either that when the student is ready, the masters and teachers will appear! Thanks for being one of those teachers!

Jodi Aman

I aim to please. Learning is so precious even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Three years? How did you finally get out?

Allison

Ironically, my doctor was good friends with another therapist. I was going to see her(to work on a certain therapy) in addition to the one I was seeing. Anyway, after just one session, I realized that I needed to get out. Believe it or not, she yelled at me over the phone and made it about her. It has takes awhile, but between being surrounded by incredibly positive and goal-oriented people (ahem!) and working with Amy (the new therapist), I am on my way. Yes, learning is so precious. Progress is progress!

nikky44

I’m so glad i came across this post today. I wanted many times to ask your advise concerning taking or abandoning meds, and also to read Alisson’s experience.
I have also had a 3 years therapy with a Freudian therapist that has not taken me anywhere good. First time i was given anti depressants and tranquilizers was when i was 13 years old. I used to take it for a maximum of one or 2 months then stop. The longest time was when i was 22 and had them for 9 months, until 2007. In 2007, I was forced to get treatment, and didn’t stop since that time. My life only got worse since 2007? Coincidence or not, i have no idea? but it’s a fact. I have stopped alone many times, did also now last month, but I’m not handling it well so it’s very confusing. I have reduced my pills intake from 21/day to 2/day, and that makes me feel more in control but also very guilty. When I accepted to start the treatment it was a response to being accused of “enjoying the pain in order to get attention” I was also accused not to do anything to get better, not to try, to be a failure a useless etc. Stopping now makes me feel very bad, but I’m sure its a good decision.
Thank you 🙂

Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I never saw someone work harder to get better than you and now you have a goal to counsel others! Be someone else women can go to beside the quack you see you charges you when your in hospital, or criticizes you. A therapist should never do that. You have major motivation. People need you! (Of course your life got worse, your therapist added to the abuse and because of her power it justified and reinforced everything bad you thought of yourself, making things worse. Often people get worse in the mental health system.)

nikky44

thank you so much Jodi, yes it makes perfect sense with the therapist, and i was even SO stressed before going to her, i wouldn’t dare even look at her, not to read criticism in her eyes or even worse, to read nothing as i am nothing. The only change i could see on her face was when her eyebrows would go up ( i would then know i said something important).

I’m so glad i came back just now to the post, i don’t do that often. I usually wait to get a notification by email for a reply, but lately not getting any 🙁
I can’t remember the posts i read to check 🙂

Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Hmm you are not getting replies anymore?

Laura Zera (@laurazera)

We’re on the same page with this one, Jodi! I agree with you about chemical imbalance (plus there’s no scientific proof behind this theory) and this line really sums it up well: “a willingness to participate in your own healing, instead of being a passive recipient of the trauma… or the drugs.” No judgment, just knowledge, awareness and willingness to participate.
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