Posted by: speakoutservices | June 6, 2011

Medication and Mental Health: The Need for Common Sense

Since when can you accurately diagnose a two-year-old with pediatric bi-polar disorder?

I just read a great article in the APSAC Advisor (Winter/Spring 2011) by Janet Cahill, PhD questioning the legitimacy of this diagnosis, and I could not agree more.  Dr. Cahill examines the history of PBD tracing it back to Dr. Joseph Biederman who had a position at Harvard University.  Dr. Bierderman’s research had a tremendous impact on clinicians who began to treat children as young as two with this “disorder” using adult mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.  Currently, Dr. Biederman is under investigation for conflicts of interest for accepting 1.6 million dollars in consulting fees from drug companies during the years he advocated for expanded use of this medication for children.

It is a controversy coming too late for Rebecca Riley, a four-year-old who died from an overdose of adult bi-polar medication.  The clinician who prescribed this relied solely on the behavioral assessment of the parents who had a history of involvement in child protective services.  They were later convicted of their daughter’s murder.  The clinician is still practicing and must be proudly displaying her degree obtained from deep within those Cracker Jack’s.

How do people with advanced degrees lack such basic common sense, and why do we accept it as truth?  I am a parent who reared two children through the “terrible twos” and it never occurred to me to rush my kids to a psychiatrist because they ran around uncontrollably, lacked focus, and threw themselves on the floor at K-Mart.  I didn’t need to go to Harvard to figure out this was normal developmental behavior, and my children did not need a pill to correct it.  I was also someone willing to go through the trials associated with parenting without getting a quick fix to make my child’s behavior more comfortable.

My plea is for a return to common sense and caution when giving anyone psychotropic medications, especially children.  Common sense dictates that accurate diagnosis in children needs to wait until they are mature enough to rule out normal developmental temperament, needs to involve a thorough assessment from several sources (not just parents), and needs to leave medication as a last resort until all other methods have been exhausted.  Children are also very accurate barometers of their home life, so the parents likely need more fixing than the kids. 

I personally do not use psychotropic medications because I have learned how to simply work through my emotions through journaling, prayer, discussion, and exercise.  However, I am clearly not on the anti-medication bandwagon.  I have seen many survivors successfully use medications and I have friends who are great parents who have children using ADHD medications with positive outcomes.  I am all for reasonable, cautious use of medications after talk therapies and behavioral interventions have proved unsuccessful or need enhanced.

Our children deserve more than just being handed a pill to swallow, and it is up to the application of common sense (and good ethics) to assure we dig for the truth.



  1. We need to create more distance between the people writing psychology/psychiatry textbooks and those working for drug companies. Conflict of interest on this level is being protected by our government and it’s really sad when it continually hurts people.

    • Yes, I competely agree. Our government should be doing the opposite and making it a crime for researchers or anyone prescribing medication to have such unethical links to drug companies. I’ll be willing to bet that drug companies make significant contributions to political campaigns too.

    • Whoever has the most money makes the rules, and you are right – it so so sad. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Amen!!

  3. I appreciate your sensible thoughts on this subject. Keep speaking out, Bonnie!

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