Science and medicine have so successfully rationalized and justified our society’s most devastating and pervasive form of child abuse that it remains almost wholly unacknowledged, though it is known to every sentient adult and to most children. Probably every adult and half-grown child in America knows and can identify at least one child who is the victim of this abuse. Those who teach, coach, minister to or otherwise serve children may know dozens or even hundreds of children who are victims of the new child abuse. Our society’s particular form of child abuse is the psychiatric diagnosing and drugging of our children.
Touted as the world’s first wonder drug, benzodiazepines—”benzos” for short—were widely prescribed in the 1960s for anxiety and stress. Within a decade they had become the most commonly used treatment for such conditions in the States and Britain. Use of benzos such as Valium, Mogadon, and Librium in both countries was widespread. Today, the same class of drugs—including Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan—is still frequently prescribed for anxiety and panic. Widely known to be addictive and to cause a range of serious side effects, benzos became less popular in the 1980s and 1990s owing largely to the rise of SSRI antidepressants, which were widely considered to be safer and nonaddictive. A combined search for benzos and “adverse effects” on PubMed yields a staggering 15,157 hits, ranging from sleep disorders and increased violence among patients to discontinuation problems and dependency issues that bear all the hallmarks of a serious addiction.
Andrew Tighman, writing in the Marine Corps Times, recently described the investigation of Fred A. Baughman Jr., M.D. into the deaths of military personnel taking multiple psychotropic medications. Baughman was alerted to a series of soldier deaths upon reading a May 2008 article in the Charleston [WV] Gazette titled “Vets Taking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Drugs Die in Sleep.” Baughman, a retired neurologist known previously for his criticism of medication treatments of ADHD and other mental health disorders, suspected that the reported cases could be part of a much larger problem.
Young people are being overmedicated and undermined. It is time that we recognize that the deluge of amphetamines and psychotropic drugs being consumed by teenagers may be more of a problem than a solution.
While most people who take prescription medications use them responsibly, when abused—that is, taken by someone other than the patient for whom the medication was prescribed, or taken in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed—prescription medications can produce serious adverse health effects and can lead to drug addiction.