“I truly believe some people need medication. I did not. I did better at school when I was on it, but it made me a zombie. You become obsessive. Dexedrine, Adderall. It’s like any other drug. It’s like coke, or crystal meth. The more you do, the less it works. For a time, it would work well.
Then it worked less and my pain was more. I would go through wild bouts of depression, horrible comedowns. I understand why kids kill themselves. I absolutely do. You feel terrible.
You feel soul-less. I’d never do it to my child.”
– Actor Channing Tatum, who was put on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals after being diagnosed with ADHD (Cohen, 2013, p. 71)
The fact that psychiatric drugs are prescribed by a doctor deceives many parents into thinking they are safe or benign. This is not the case. A significant number of the drugs commonly prescribed for children are very similar to illicit drugs you might purchase on the street corner, simply administered in smaller doses (but usually at least once a day for extended periods of time). For example, the drugs for ADHD are essentially different versions of synthetic speed, and those used for psychiatric disorders often target neurotransmitter receptors in the brain for things like dopamine…just as cocaine does. This is why college kids will often use drugs like ritalin to get high at a party or cram for a test. They are drugs just like street drugs, only prescribed for a medical reason. (Unfortunately, much like “medical marijuana,” the reason for the prescription is often dubious.)
Every medication in existence is essentially a poison that you take in controlled doses, and anytime you dump a poison into your child’s body there are bound to be side effects. Some of these side effects may be mild, others can be quite severe. Doctors prescribe the medication in the hopes that it’s the best treatment option available and that the benefits of this poison will exceed the risks. Sometimes this is the case. Far too often it is not.
One of the biggest acknowledgements of the complications these drugs create is the fact that the American Psychiatric Association recently created a new disorder dedicated exclusively to helping people cope as they come back down off the drugs, just as a heroin junkie or cocaine addict might need help going clean.
The danger of prescribing kids multiple medications at once
Putting a child on multiple psychiatric or behavioral medications at once substantially increases the danger involved. As an Oregan State University policy review states, “Most psychotropic combinations lack adequate evidence of effectiveness or safety in youth.” Children and adolescents differ from adults in their adverse reactions to psychotropic medications, and pediatric research shows that putting a youth on more medications at once increases the likelihood of adverse reactions. (Safer, Zito & dosReis, 2003; Safer & Zito, 2006)
Moreover, there’s no reason for it. Most psychological medications are only marginally effective at most, and taking more than one at a time only gives you more ineffectiveness, not more benefit. As the Oregon State research summary concludes, “There is no evidence to support the use of more than 1 antidepressant or antipsychotic drug used concomitantly.” (OSU, 2008)