The Wholesale Sedation of America's Youth
By Andrew M. Weiss, Skeptical Inquirer. Posted May 5, 2009.
Eight million kids today have been diagnosed with mental disorders, and most receive some form of medication. Is this child abuse?
In the winter of 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study indicating that 200,000 two- to four-year-olds had been prescribed Ritalin for an "attention disorder" from 1991 to 1995. Judging by the response, the image of hundreds of thousands of mothers grinding up stimulants to put into the sippy cups of their preschoolers was apparently not a pretty one.
Most national magazines and newspapers covered the story; some even expressed dismay or outrage at this exacerbation of what already seemed like a juggernaut of hyper-medicalizing childhood. The public reaction, however, was tame; the medical community, after a moment's pause, continued unfazed. Today, the total toddler count is well past one million, and influential psychiatrists have insisted that mental health prescriptions are appropriate for children as young as twelve months. For the pharmaceutical companies, this is progress.
In 1995, 2,357,833 children were diagnosed with ADHD (Woodwell 1997) -- twice the number diagnosed in 1990. By 1999, 3.4 percent of all American children had received a stimulant prescription for an attention disorder. Today, that number is closer to ten percent. Stimulants aren't the only drugs being given out like candy to our children. A variety of other psychotropics like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sedatives are finding their way into babies' medicine cabinets in large numbers. In fact, the worldwide market for these drugs is growing at a rate of ten percent a year, $20.7 billion in sales of antipsychotics alone (for 2007, IMSHealth 2008).