Ask the Pharmacist: Are Psych Meds Right for Kids?

Ask the Pharmacist: Are Psych Meds Right for Kids?
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In today’s article we are going to talk about psych medications for children. We will think about all mental health issues especially ones for ADHD and depression, which seem to be the most prevalent among young people. For the purpose of this discussion when we use the word children, I am thinking about kids eight to sixteen years of age.

Anyone who thinks children don’t need to be treated for mental health issues is probably living in a fantasy world. The bigger question is how many of these issues are just children growing up and how many actually should be treated with medication.

Are we overmedicating our younger generation? There are many factors to be looked at. When a student isn’t paying attention in math class, is it truly ADHD or is there just something else more interesting to look at outside the window (like a squirrel eating a bird).

Let’s look at some factors that lead to stress, anxiety and depression in children. First, we have the Internet, which exposes kids to tons of information that many of them are too young and naïve to fully understand.

Puberty is a point in their life where their whole world changes. Social media and cyber bullying are things that never existed in previous generations and create a lot of stress and anxiety in children. Staying home and playing video games instead of playing outside prevents children from having social interactions and having a way to release energy.

Also, a lot of children come from single-parent homes or homes where both parents work so parental guidance in the home is sometimes lacking.

So, how do we determine which children have true mental health issues and could benefit from medication and which children would benefit from a more structured lifestyle or just someone to talk to? This is not an exact science. It is actually more of an art then a science.

Medications like Ritalin and Adderall work very well in treating ADHD. Many antidepressants work very well in treating anxiety and depression. The problem with these medications is that they can be addictive or create a dependence. We don’t want our children to be on these medications for their entire lives.

When they become adults, they feel Xanax is needed because the Adderall makes them hyper and Ambien is needed to help them sleep. That’s where doctors, teachers and parents need to get together and find out what the best way to treat their child is. We do not want the medication to become a crutch that the child is going to need their entire life. I cringe at the number of times I see young adults on five or six medications.

Are ADHD and these conditions being over-diagnosed? Many times, it’s just kids being kids and they will grow out of it normally. I think parents and doctors have to sit down and weigh the pros and cons. Many times, when both parents work or it’s a single-parent home, putting the kid on drugs is the easier solution.

We as a society need to have a better way to treat children with these issues. We need doctors to spend more time with these young patients. We need insurance companies to invest more money in this area and pay the medical professionals so they can put in the time. We need psychologists and psychiatrists to be more accessible to parents and we need the drug companies to stop spending big money trying to push medications on everyone.

So, yes, psych medications are necessary for some children. However, before we put them on theses meds, let’s make sure we have tried other options first. Our goal needs to be not to just treat these patients, but to watch them as they grow and develop into adults and see if, as their life evolves, we can reduce or discontinue these medications.

Pullout: “The problem with these medications is that they can be addictive or create a dependence. We don’t want our children to be on these medications for their entire lives.”

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