Overmedicated Youth

Today’s youth are being subjected to mental illness screenings and psychotropic drugs as early as the age of 1. In some cases these drugs are introduced to children as young as 8 months old. Are our children really ill? Yes some of them are. But are these new practices for the love of our children or for the pursuit of a quick buck. My research states the latter; our government is overmedicating our children for profit.

Government studies predict the approximately 4 million School age children actually suffer from ADHD however more than twenty million prescriptions were written in 2004 for psychotropic drugs, according to the IMS, a health care information company. The number of drug prescriptions, has been steadily increasing since 1996 when about fourteen million prescriptions were written. We know there’s better recognition of ADHD, and we also know that when children are treated nowadays, they’re more likely to be treated over a longer period of time, if you go back five, seven, or even eight years ago; it was very rare that an adolescent with ADHD was treated. And usually it’d just be a child in elementary school treated, but nowadays prescriptions have risen because adolescents are getting treated. There is currently no impartial investigative tool for the disorder, so the diagnosis often comes down to a judgment call. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines recommending that children suspected of ADHD have at least 2 to 3 visits with a physician, and that the physician request additional information from parents and teachers. In reality, far too often it’s the teacher who’s making the diagnosis. In some situations, parents were even told if they didn’t place their child on a psychotropic drug, their child would not be able to attend school.

Recommendations by the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC), George W. Bush wants to launch a nationwide mental illness screening program in government institutions, including the public school system, for all students from kindergarten to the 12th grade. This commission was established by an order Bush issued on April 29, 2002. The commission recommends changing America’s mental health system. To achieve this goal it would require a greater amount of education and engagement for first line health care providers as well as primary care practitioners, And a greater focus on mental health care in institutions such as schools, child welfare programs, and the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The goal is integrated care that can screen, identify, and respond to problems early. According to the NFC, its recommendations are already being promoted in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

This idea originally developed in Texas, with a program called the Texas Medication algorithm Project (TMAP). This is a medication treatment program that screens people for mental illness and than prescribes expensive psychiatric drugs. The State of Pennsylvania rejected this program however after Whistle blower Allen Jones wrote report suggesting that medical leaders received payments from drug companies that benefited from the plan and the writing of there prescriptions. Through the TMAP program, drug companies would be able to gain unlimited access to the Texas prison system, juvenile justice system, foster care program, and state mental health hospitals, to gain new customers. The list of medications that could be prescribed in Texas were highly expensive drugs like, Paxil, Zyprexa, Adderall, Zoloft, Risperdal, Seroqual, Depakote, Prozac, Wellbutron, Zyban, Remeron, Serxone, and many others. After securing access to the public systems, the next step in the TMAP was to get lawmakers to pass legislation to increase Medicaid coverage to persons who ordinarily would not qualify, in order to provide funding by way of tax dollars to pay for the drugs prescribed to customers within theses systems.

The harsh truth is our children are already being overmedicated; the number of children on antidepressant medication increased by over 500 percent between 1999 and 2003. Antidepressants and anti-psychotics now constitute two of the four top classes of drug sales. According to a 2003 report in the New York Times, the sale of anti-psychotics reached more than 6.4 billion dollars making them the fourth highest grossing medication in the nation next to Cholesterol lowering drugs, ulcer drugs and anti depressants. For example, Zyprexa is manufactured by the Eli Lilly Company. In 2002, according to the watchdog group, NDC Health, “more than 7.4 million prescriptions were written for Zyprexa.” In the 2003, it became Eli Lilly’s top seller with worldwide sales of over four billion dollars. According to The New York Times, seventy percent of the Zyprexa purchased in the US that year was paid for by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

To make matters worse a new form of mental illness screening was implemented called the Teen Screen, What the teen screen does is ask a serious of questions for example do you ever feel ugly? Or do you ever feel like you are not smart enough? They word these questions in a way that almost forces these children to say yes. And suddenly your child thinks they may be mentally ill. Now they want to get tested and than bam a new customer for the drug industry and another child taking drugs they really don’t need. The Bush appointed New Freedoms Commission on Mental Health issued a report in July 2003 urging the screening of school children in all 50 states and chose Teen Screen as the model program to ensure that all youth receive a mental health check-up before graduating. The sad truth is the New Freedom Commission is nothing more than a hub for a profiteering scheme involving the Bush administration, federal and local government officials, and drug companies to broaden the market for the sale of expensive and often times lethal drugs. If all goes according to plan, it will generate millions of new prescription drug customers; Creating for our society generations of overmedicated children and adults.

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