medicating our children
I’m back from a very productive weekend in Nantucket, which I spent writing with an informal group of women, all of whom were working on various projects: a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an ob/gyn, two English professors, and me (the lowly writer). When we weren’t writing (and I wasn’t sneaking off to bike around the island), we discovered that all of us were grappling with raising at least one child in therapy and/or on meds for ADHD and other related disorders.
Earthquakes, oil spills, corporate and financial meltdowns (and bail outs), rabid political partisanship, endless wars, constant distraction by all things electronic: our world is spinning out of control. Is it any wonder that so many of us are on meds, or are self-medicating? The old ways of doing things—what we drive, eat, wear, feel, how we raise our children—aren’t cutting it anymore. It’s no surprise our society is making even the most grounded amongst us feel more fragmented and distracted than ever, turning to drugs and other supports for help.
Is ADHD becoming more prevalent in our society, or are we just more aware, willing and able to do something about our children’s mental heath by treating them with meds, talk therapy, and other alternatives? It’s hard to tell, even for the experts. Dr. Marliyn Wedge’s blog for Psychology Today, PBS’ Frontline, WBUR’s “Are the Kids Alright?” series and countless others are busy exploring and talking about the effects of medicating our children.
As parents, we want our kids to feel “successful” academically and socially. We want to do everything we can to help them now, before they grow up and we regret not doing enough. We don’t want to second-guess our decisions about whether or not to medicate our children. If we do choose to medicate, we fear the short- and long-term side effects of these drugs. We also don’t want the medications our kids are on to smooth away the parts of them that we love so much: their creativity, their energy, their empathy, their passion. And if, after having tried all the alternatives, we worry about what we’ll have to resort to next if these medications don’t work.
I’ve started looking more into nutritional therapies for ADHD. There seems to be an abundant community of believers that think it fundamentally comes down to nutritional and environmental triggers. More so, some of these therapies have shown tremendous results.
I’m fairly certain that the purveyors of the drug route will suggest that these alternatives are half-baked and dangerous to pursue. But doesn’t this sit at the nexus of the problem/question that you’re posing? What to do next? How to approach in a way that’s not detrimental in the long term?
hey Dan – thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’d be very interested in finding out how you fare with nutritional therapies. It seems quite rational (and not half-baked or dangerous!) to conclude that what you put into your body affects your health—and your brain chemistry. What I’ve wondering is when we try too many therapies at once, it’s impossible to figure out exactly what you’re doing that works and what doesn’t. So, for example, do you stop the meds (and chiropractic and therapy and whatever else…) cold turkey and put your kid on a strict diet? How do you follow that diet 100% of the time (or even 80% of the time!) when there are so many social pressures about eating, drinking, etc, etc…it’s a simple idea that can become quite complicated! But I think you’re right about the impact of diet on these types of disorders.