Saturday, February 7, 2009

On the subject of MEDICATIONS

I wrote this piece a little while back. While the information is a bit dated, based on my recent conversations with parents at the center, it is important information that is still applicable today. (Also, it serves as a good introduction for forthcoming blogs.)

Anyone who has had experience with any of the medications typically prescribed for ADD/ADHD is well aware of the fact that these medications have side-effects. In fact, at two separate SEPTA meetings at which I was fortunate enough to speak, ONE HUNDRED (100!) PERCENT of all parents whose children who had tried medications indicated that their child had some sort of side-effect.

So much for the “rare” occurrence of such issues.

Some of the more common side-effects are weight loss, sleep disturbance, tics, mood swings, and “rebound.”

However, far greater problems are being discovered in connection with the use of many of these drugs. Adderall XR, Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera and almost all antidepressants, drugs commonly prescribed for children and adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, have come under new fire. Researchers have warned that each of these drugs may carry additional, and very serious, side-effects ranging from depression and suicidal thoughts to stroke, cancer and death.

Adderall XR was pulled off the market in Canada after reports linked the use of the drug to a dozen strokes and twenty sudden deaths. Fourteen of the sudden deaths and two of the strokes were suffered by children.

Researchers at the University of Texas and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have found chromosome damage in twelve children that used Ritalin for three months. The chromosome damage was similar to that caused by known cancer-causing drugs.

After reviewing recent relevant studies and psychiatric reports, the Food and Drug Administration warns of suicidal thinking and behavior in children who have taken Strattera and antidepressants. The same concerns, as well as hallucinations and violent behavior, were expressed in connection with Concerta,

Similarly, after reviewing relevant scientific studies, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency concluded that there was “no solid evidence that the benefits outweigh the possible side effects” of antidepressant use by individuals under the age of 18. (American researchers were quick to fire back with a study of their own that concluded the risks associated with depression outweighed any potential harm caused by antidepressants.)

Also, on a personal note, I have to wonder just how “effective” these medications truly are. If one defines “effective” as having an effect, well, yeah, the meds are very effective. However, if one defines “effective” as having the expected and, more importantly, DESIRED, effect, then, I gotta tell you, I'm not so sure the meds are all they're cracked up to be.

Again, at the SEPTA meeting where I spoke, even though 100% of the parents noted side-effects, LESS THAN ONE IN THREE felt the meds were producing desirable results! (And, in general, I rarely meet any parent who doesn't complain about the meds – maybe it's the business I'm in.)

Maybe that's why there is so much experimenting with different meds and amounts and combinations on our kids. Maybe it's also why these “effective, safe and tested” meds are constantly being replaced by “new and improved” drugs developed to replace the old.

Now, I understand why parents resort to medication. We tried them, too. If there is nothing else, and your child is suffering, and the teachers and doctors are all telling you that this is the right thing to do, with all the requisite assurances, what choice do you feel you have?

Just know, that there are alternatives. Like anything else, there is a chance that these alternatives won't work completely, but hey, I can almost guarantee a better than one in three chance that they will – and all without side-effects!


The Associated Press

New York Times


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