The doping of America's children

Joel Mowbray

1/15/2003 12:00:00 AM - Joel Mowbray
The number of young children hooked on powerful narcotics has skyrocketed over the past 15 years, but the Drug Enforcement Agency won’t be doing anything about it—because the drugs in question are being peddled by pediatricians. In the most comprehensive study of its kind, a new report details how legal drug use among youths has more than tripled since 1987, which means that kids are now doped by doctors at the same rate as adults are. As shocking as it is to see that more than 6 percent of children are popping pills on a daily basis, the study merely confirms what has been apparent for years now. A host of factors have together created this embarrassing situation: parents who crave an easy solution, doctors who are all-too-willing to provide it, and—at the root of the problem—the educational establishment, which has replaced schoolyard drug dealers as the most persistent pushers of narcotics. Parents of difficult children are lured into drugging their kids with the seductive promise of a quick fix. Doctors and teachers explain how the grass really is greener on the medicated side, persuading parents to ditch discipline in favor of the “modern” approach. Mind-altering narcotics, not surprisingly, do in fact pack a powerful punch—particularly for a young child. The child may not learn how to modify his behavior, but he is typically zonked out enough that he is no longer a “problem”. In an instant gratification society, the doping of kids to alleviate annoyance of adults should not come as a shock. Parents have busy lives, and dishing out a few pills a day keeps behavioral issues at bay. So even if someone has a sinking feeling about the long-term consequences, it can be more convenient to keep quiet. Although it’s easy to castigate parents for abdicating responsibility, many of them become convinced that drugs really are the best solution. America’s most menacing drug cartel—jointly operated by doctors and the educational establishment—has steered troublemaking kids away from traditional approaches (generally some mix of discipline, additional attention, and counseling) and into the warm embrace of a substance habit. Doctors are so prone to over-diagnosis that many of the kids being medicated don’t have any disease to begin with. In a society where “victims” are celebrated, children who act out or simply fidget too much in class are ripe targets for induction into the cult of victimhood. Sometimes parents prod pediatricians, but often doctors are so eager to ascribe a problem child with some affliction—attention deficit disorder (ADD) is all the rage—that otherwise healthy, if rambunctious, kids gets branded. Of course many kids do need medication, and professional help is often necessary to bring some kids into line. But that is the distinct minority of cases now being treated with narcotics. It’s not easy, but tough love imbued with forceful discipline and clear boundaries can work wonders on misbehaving kids—even if results are not instantly evident. Parents who try that tack at home, however, often see their efforts undermined by the feel-good disciples that run our public schools. Ironically, the very same teachers and administrators who abhor getting tough on troublemakers are the first ones ready to “handle” children with Schedule II drugs—the most highly addictive drugs that are still legal. Children are being rammed through a one-size-fits-all pipeline by the educational establishment, and if one of the kids doesn’t quite fit in, drugs are whipped out faster than you can say “twelve steps.” Schools all over the country monitor drug use by students—not to keep it from getting out of hand, mind you, but to blow the whistle when the kids aren’t doped up. Teachers unions continue to fight—sometimes successfully—to block children from attending school if they haven’t taken their drugs. The trend has become so pervasive that lawmakers in Vermont last year introduced legislation to prevent schools from requiring kids to pop pills. Without being equipped with the necessary skills to properly modify their behavior, medicated children are likely to become medicated adults. Which leads us to the $64,000 question: how will today’s kids handle their own problem children?