Medicating Children: The Risks and Alternatives

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With childhood autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety on the rise, recent statistics reveal an alarming increase in the use of prescription medications for children, particularly behaviour-modifying drugs which include potent anti-depressants and anti-psychotics (despite growing evidence of misdiagnoses in many cases).

While these drugs can often be useful, occasionally necessary, and even life-saving in the short term, the long term effects are both unknown and questionable. There are a number of concerns that should be considered when weighing up the short term versus long term benefits of medicating a child, including, but not limited to:

  1. With every dose, a tolerance builds, and the required medication dose steadily increases over time.

  2. In addition to potential benefits, medications are accompanied by a long list of potential and horrifying side effects ranging from nausea and seizures to sudden death.

  3. Many medications – particularly the stimulants commonly used to treat ADHD, can be highly addictive.

  4. Medications are designed to stop symptoms and treat body parts in isolation but do not elicit true and lasting cure as they do not address the cause.

  5. Children risk becoming reliant on medications for the rest of their lives and learn to reach for pills and a ‘quick fix’ at every turn instead of learning that health is holistic; and that positive health behaviours can be learned and self-regulated.

It has been the natural inclination for parents to trust and accept the advice of their doctor; it is imperative to realise however, that as parents, they are ultimately responsible for the health and wellness of their children, and they must make educated decisions based on both evidence and instinct. Doctors prescribe medication because that is what their biomedical education taught them to do; they believe it is the best option, and in some cases it may be so.

But before we feed our children toxic mind-altering substances at the first sign of a problem, is it not worth considering what different and more natural kinds of solutions are out there? Before we administer drugs which create temporary chemical changes in their developing brains and temporary changes in their behaviour, is it not worth getting a variety of evidence-based opinions and finding holistic and permanent ways to change behaviours where possible?

Central to finding a lasting solution to behavioural problems is finding the underlying cause of those problems. The issue today is that there are a great number of suspects, related to food choices, lifestyle, environmental toxins, and emotional stressors.

There are times when the most simple of interventions can produce the desired behaviour but more often the journey is one of exploration, and trial and error.

In the short term this kind of approach will be far more time consuming and challenging than popping a pill, but the long term benefits are beyond measure.

And if your child is already on medication and it is working for you and your child, that’s okay – no two children are the same therefore there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment.

If you have a story or experience with childhood behavioural issues and/or medications, please leave a comment to share with our readers.


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