Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Use or Not to Use Antipsychotic Drugs on Children

My friend Ruthie is getting her PhD in couples and family therapy, which is great because (A): she is super smart and hard-working, and (B): she shares her readings with me, so I don't have to go to the trouble of hunting down the latest research myself!

So, this recent article she shared piqued my interest because many families struggle with the question of whether to medicate a young child who has violent outbursts.

I've seen it both ways. Some kids are really helped by medication, but ONLY IF they are properly diagnosed and treated. Others are mis-diagnosed and over-medicated. By the time they reach 13 or 14 years-old, they realize they've been mistreated and are really, really angry and distrustful of the health system and the adults around them. And either way, it still leaves open the question of what the long-term effects are of antipsychotics on young children. We just don't have the long-term case studies to know with certainty what the outcome will be.

Kyle's family's story illustrates that when family's like his are given counseling and other social supports, children's behavior changes. And at least with counseling, we know there are no long-term biological effects. Long-term social-emotional effects, yes indeed, but physiological harm: no way!