Last night, the husband and I watched a Frontline episode on PBS called the Medicated Child. The documentary followed the cases of a few children who were being medicated for ADHD and, the latest popular diagnosis, bipolar disorder. You can watch it online here. Pundits are calling these kids Generation Rx, but we think there's bigger story here.
One child was labeled by a teacher at age 3 as being hyperactive. It was pointed out that this child had no problems at all until he was in preschool. The parents were backed into a corner of the next few years as teacher after teacher suggested that he be medicated. In another segment, a doctor and the parents took seriously the imaginative, albeit disturbing, ramblings of a 5-year-old girl. Her fantasies were all about bashing heads open and decapitating her parents. My first instinct was to ask what is this child watching on television and how are the parents interacting with her. The doctor believes the child has bipolar disorder, of course, and prescribes medication. Another young boy was taking eight medications for bipolar disorder and ADHD. Jim and I watched in horror as the child washed down a few microwave corn dogs with blue Gatorade. Later, he washed down his medication with soda right before bed. A steady diet of sugar, processed food, blue dye, soda chemicals ... I'm sure that has nothing to with his behavior. Asking questions about environment, diet and schedule and getting a sense of the parents' skills is too much work and not as profitable for drug companies, apparently. And if you can blame the behavior on a brain disorder, you won't offend parents who are paying the medical bills and you'll help increase drug company profits. It's a win-win for these doctors and pharmaceuticals.
I know it's not politically correct to suggest that parents' and teachers' motives are anything but pure or in the best interest of the children, but since when I have really cared about that? Prepare to be offended, outraged and more at my total lack of sensitivity. Ready? Here we go:
Schools are an unnatural environment where children learn to sit still, raise their hands, wait their turn, give up their property rights and accept the authority of a person who is not their parent and is more beholden to a demanding bureaucracy than to their best interest.
As for the parents, they are under enormous pressure from the federal baby-sitting service to make their children conform. And since many of these parents are products of this service, they don't likely have the intellectual courage to question authority. See, they don't teach that in school. The more compliant a child is, the easier it is for a teacher to do her job. For the children whose spirits have not yet been broken, medication is the easy answer. I'd say teachers and doctors have done a pretty good job of making normal childhood development seem like a disorder that can be managed only through medication. Evaluating and changing diet, schedules, parenting approaches among other things before resorting to medication seems like common sense, but the federal baby-sitting service has trained that right out of us. No, no, we must rely on experts and solutions that cost money. After all, a good economy is good for the state which collects taxes on every move we make. And, God forbid, we make a move that doesn't cost a thing.
To us, though, all this sounds like a pretty severe case of PPD (Poor Parenting Disorder) and NCC (Nonconformity Complex) with a mild case of the KIDs. The latter will likely abate over time if the PPD is brought under control and the expectations of conformity are abandoned.