The Myth of the Over-Medicated Child

I've seen it in several places 'round the Web in the past few days: Today's parents are compensating for poor behavior and lack of discipline by doping their kids with harsh chemicals and not-well-studied medications in order to turn them into docile zombies.

In case you can't tell, these lines of reasoning piss me the eff off. Mainly because I medicate my child and I do it with a relatively new drug that hasn't been tested over decades. Also because people have rolled their eyes and clicked their tongues and exchanged knowing glances when I attempt to control my child's behavior when he isn't properly medicated.

I would like you to show me these hordes of children who are zombie-shuffling through their days in a haze of behavior stilting "chemicals." Please. Show them to me. Now.

Because I've yet to see even one. And I know for certain that my child is vivacious, chatty, funny, and compassionate about 35 minutes after he swallows his 30 mg does every morning. Before that does kicks in he displays all of those qualities with the nasty addition of moody, impulsive, scattered, and over sensitive.

I firmly believe that if we lived in a bubble where no outside influences ever darkened our door, where we could grow our own crops and dictate the way they come from farm to table, where we could meet and exceed our children's educational needs, and where we could channel extra energy into heavy chores (like on the aforementioned farm), we would be able to get by without the help of medication.

But that's not the world we live in. We live in the world of 25 students to a classroom, two parents who work full time (even though one gets to do it from home), limited space and knowledge with which to cultivate crops, and not many back-breaking chores to diffuse a hyped up child. That's just the way it is.

And it absolutely kills me for someone to harp on about and refuse to apologize for the belief that parents don't spend every waking moment trying to do what's right for their kid. Speaking for the parents I know, we've tried positive reinforcement, we've tried behavior charts, we've tried dietary restrictions and changes, we've tried counselling, and we spent a lot of time sitting in classrooms working with the people who spend hours upon hours with our children.

We wring our hands. We read book after book. We try new methods and strategies. We cry at the pediatrician's office. We look to each other for a sympathetic ear and to hear someone else say I've been there and I made it through.

So the next time you dismiss a child with an attention or hyperactivity disorder as suffering from "the latest fad" or you threaten your child that if he doesn't shape up you'll force him to take "zombie pills" or you roll your eyes at a parent who is ready to burn down the pharmacy because they ran out of a certain medication but didn't think to tell you in time ...

Just don't. Check yourself and your judgements. They are neither wanted nor justified.

And one day it could be your child. I guarantee it won't seem so made up to you then.


  • Ken and Meg

    You go advocacy-mama!

  • gwenschott

    Well, I think there are parents who rush to medicate behavior problems, but I don't think they're talking about parents like you. It's obvious that for you it's not a matter of just popping some pills to get him to chill out. They are out there though, and I'm sad to say that I'm related to such a family. I was stunned to see that anytime Emma started becoming the slightest bit unruly, mom's response was "when was your last dose?" Emma got a pill, and when she became calm and more focused, mom said "good, now we can have an adult conversation without having to deal with her hyperness." It made me sad for Emma. She was being treated like an issue to deal with rather than a child who needed support dealing with her impulses.

    Again, not talking about you, but there are a lot of people that are quick to medicate. It's part of our society. We pop ibuprofen or tums or whatever to treat symptoms. If we don't have symptoms, nothing's wrong, right? Instead of trying to find out what's causing the headaches or the heartburn we just try to make them go away. When we're sad, we ask the doctor for anti depressants whether our sadness is chemical or situational. I admit I'm like this sometimes, although I'm trying to get better about listening to my body and being aware of signs.

    So anyways, to get back to your original point, I think it is a terrible generalization to say that all parents are dealing with poor behavior by doping their kids. Does it happen? I definitely think so. But definitely not to the degree that they make it sound. And the problem with perpetuating generalizations is that it creates an environment for people to feel they have the right to pass judgement. *Sigh*

  • Kelly Miller

    Preach it, Gwen!

    Yes, everyone can be irresponsible with the drugs available to them. But, no, that doesn't mean that everyone is.

    I'm very lucky to be surrounded by people who think (probably too much) about what's best for their children.

    Also, it's pretty messed up that in this world of over-medicating, I can't get a Wellbutrin to save my life. ;)

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