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Lifestyle

September 15, 2013

Why are so many children medicated?

Dear Doctor,

I am a teacher in what you would term a “typical” elementary school. I am curious as to use of medications. I have several children in my class who are not only on medication for attention deficit disorder, but other drugs, too.

I do not remember such medications as a young person and wonder if, indeed, there has been an increase in their use. If so, what is wrong?

Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Yes, there has been an exponential increase in use of medications with children and adolescents. No, you did not see them utilized as much, if at all, years ago.

Why the change? As someone who has lived much of the history of medication use in children, I will give you my personal take as to some reasons why.

First, we have been sold a philosophy that there is a pill for everything from being sad to erectile dysfunction. Better living through chemistry is our mantra. Just check the ads on any given evening of television viewing, and you will see this belief championed over and over to the tune of about 300 billion dollars a year in advertising pharmaceuticals.

Second, we are less competent disciplinarians. Parents are busy, often stressed and on medication themselves. Children are less likely to be taught coping and behavioral skills with calm and sensitive approaches within the home.

Third, we are teaching distraction with a curriculum which includes every gadget, video, activity, and toy known to the human race. God forbid a child should say, “I am bored.”

Fourth, the educational establishment is in a frenzy of activity. Classrooms are too cluttered, interactive, scattered, and pressured. This extends to the homework agenda and more pressure on parents to enforce and teach. Schools have proliferated with “experts” including occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, special educators, speech specialists, physical therapists, and consultants of every stripe. Meanwhile the classroom teacher has greater pressure to perform and get those MCAS scores up!

This is just a start. Next week: What can we do about it?

---

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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