Last week, the New York Times ran a sad yet compelling story about a boy named Kyle, who at 18 months was put on antipsychotic drugs to quell severe temper tantrums. By the time he was 3, the poor kid had been diagnosed with autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia and “oppositional defiant disorder” (um, isn’t that a fancy phrase for “normal toddler behavior”?). He was on the antipsychotic Risperdal, the antidepressant Prozac, two sleeping medicines and a pill for attention-deficit disorder. Did you read that?! Prozac! Sleeping pills!
One of the best TV exposés on Big Pharma we’ve seen, “People & Power —Drug Money” produced by Aljazeera. This piece pulls no punches exposing the rampant fraud, fatal drug side effects, off label marketing, criminal practices and “absolutely jaw dropping” payouts Pharma makes to psychiatrists/doctors. Sharon Ormsky, FBI Financial Crimes Unit states, “Pharmaceutical fraud is one of our top three threats — everybody is touched by these frauds in the extent that when you look at the billions of dollars that go into healthcare for the United States, a good percent, 3-10% of that is believed to be siphoned off into fraud—that’s money that could be going to very needy patients.”
Despite the public relations campaign aimed at “de-stigmatizing mental illness,” scores of permanent, stereotyping labels are assigned to what are basically annoying habits: clicking a pen repeatedly (anxiety), talking fast (hysteria), repeating a favorite song over and over (obsessive-compulsive disorder), wiggling in a chair (hyperactive). Even crazes like text-messaging are not immune from diagnosis. Attitudes that may be in bad taste or out-of-fashion, but certainly not “dangerous” or “wrong,” are also viewed with suspicion and sometimes criminalized.
Use of prescription psychotropics has skyrocketed among U.S. military personnel in recent years, according to an investigation by Military Times. At least 17 percent of active-duty military personnel are currently taking an antidepressant, including as many as 6 percent of all deployed troops. In contrast, the rate of antidepressant use in the wider U.S. public is only 10 percent.
Child abuse is a serious problem that affects nearly one million children a year in the United States alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Department of Health and Human Services classify child abuse into four categories including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. None of these categories, however, clearly includes the abusive use of drugs on children. A study soon to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics investigates the malicious use of pharmaceuticals and attempts to shed light on this under-recognized problem.