Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Prescribing temperance

Jeff MacNelly, political cartoonist, Chicago Tribune

By Solmaaz Yazdiha
May 1, 2008

There is no denying the counter-culture which fueled the drug revolution and experimentation of the 1960s. We are the offspring, and we live in a highly medicated era.

A product of the "War on Drugs," our generation has become the guinea pigs of an Rx rage. In our medically and technologically advanced decade, every symptom necessitates diagnosis, every ache demands attention and every pain can be alleviated with a prescribed cure.

Recently and dramatically, more and more children are being diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders. As a result, the youth of our country are being prescribed medications that have only just begun being tested in children. Is there truly a serious increase in childhood disorders? Or are drug manufacturers working together with physicians simply to boost sales? Could these bogus diagnoses be more plainly blamed on being a living, breathing child?

Think back to your elementary school days. Overwhelming bouts of energy, tantrums you knew could get you what you wanted, and moments of extreme insecurity. It all sounds pretty familiar, right? These are the emotions we go through as we're growing up and adapting to our environment, meeting new people and dabbling in unfamiliar social circles, experiencing, living.

For many physicians in America, these highs and lows that seem purely human nature to the ordinary Joe have become a science. Having family members in the medical field, I have seen that much of the hospital's focus is on profit. In the United States, health care is just another rung on the ladder of capitalism and consumerism, and many medical institutions have their eyes on the sky. How does it make you feel to think of your health as part of the free market? The United Kingdom, Canada, and virtually all of Europe provide universal health care to their citizens. In American hospitals, profit is first priority, and research and health care come second in line.

Sedatives to sleep, stimulants to stay up; Adderall to focus and Valium to relax; lots and lots of Ritalin to sit still. After all, that is the common illustration of a child, one who's quiet and sits still. No?

Children in America are being diagnosed left and right with drugs that have not proven effective for young ages. Many children are now being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and are being prescribed a dangerous plethora of drugs to "balance out" their personalities. These antipsychotics have one goal and one goal only: to numb.

But what kind of life is one that feels like it's on ice? One with the edges blurred? What is a childhood that is hard to recall? Who is a child that cannot feel? Our generation and those younger than us will one day run this world. Where are we headed if we can't find our heads?

Not only is this insurgence of prescription drugs harmful to the child's internal makeup, causing things like tics that cannot be reversed when medicated for too long, but is also damaging to their social life and self esteem as well. Once diagnosed, a child is forced to live with the baggage of their so-called disorder and to carry the label with them throughout their lives.

If someone as respected and highly intelligible as a doctor claims that there is something wrong, who's not to believe them? Many prescriptions like Zoloft or Paxil, when prescribed to children, have resulted in severe depression and worse, ghastly happenings of suicide and self-harm.

According to PBS' Frontline report, the FDA has concluded that 4 percent of children have an increased risk of becoming suicidal when on these medications.

Ultimately, medicating a child is a serious gamble. In a country where it is unclear what the motives of the medical institution really are, it is important for citizens to be aware and to educate themselves. It is vital to always seek a second opinion, and to always keep in mind that it is healthy and vital for a child to be a child.

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