Monday, July 17, 2006

Medicating Kids

A column in The Albuquerque Tribune tackles the thorny question of the rapidly rising number of children being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While some might argue that the columnist is being overly cynical when he credits the rise to profiteering corporations and lazy parents, I think he's right.

Frankly, unless my child was having active hallucinations, delusions or suicidal impulses, I would be incredibly hesitant to put him/her on a psychiatric medication. I suppose I would take what I've labelled the Dr. Phil approach to the problem. That kid would have to earn that medication. I would try every other available treatment, from traditional counseling to massage therapy, before attempting to mainpulate my kid's brain chemistry in order to correct a troubling behavior. And the definition of a "troubling behavior" is the crux of the issue when medicating children.

When does a child's temper tantrum cross the line from normal to pathological? That's a question I'm very happy that I don't have to answer as a professional because it would very difficult to tell a parent that actually, their child isn't mentally ill, he's just a brat.

On the flip side, I think it would be horrible to have a child that isn't clearly well or clearly sick. Personally, I don't think people should medicate children unless they are clearly sick, but I have a lot of compassion for the borderline kids because mental illnesses do come on a spectrum of severity and there are bound to be those who fall into the nebulous zone of might. It might be beneficial and it might be detrimental. Do you gamble?