Methamphetamine and marijuana aren't the only drugs parents worry about. The problems caused by prescription combinations called "drug cocktails" have finally broken into the national news stream.
A recent Page 1 of the New York Times described Stephen, age 15, who takes antidepressants Zoloft and Desyrel, plus anticonvulsant Lamictal to moderate his moods, plus the stimulant Focalin XR to improve concentration. His brother Jacob, age 14, takes Focalin XR for concentration, plus the anticonvulsant Depakote to moderate his moods, plus the antipsychotic Risperdal to reduce anger, plus Catapres to induce sleep.
Over the last three years, each boy has been prescribed 28 different psychiatric drugs and has seen 11 psychiatrists. Gone are the days when a visit to a psychiatrist meant lying on a couch to recite your troubles. Treatment today means taking prescription drugs, lots of them.
More than 3 million children are using the most commonly prescribed drug, Ritalin, and it is routinely combined with other drugs. Last year, 1.6 million children and teenagers were given at least two psychiatric drugs in combination, and 500,000 were given at least three.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to prove the safety of each drug. But hardly any studies have examined the safety or effectiveness of drugs used in combination.
The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2003 found only six controlled trials of two-drug combinations, four of which failed to show any benefit, and a fifth showed bad side effects. Scientific studies of combinations of three or more drugs are nonexistent.
There are no studies showing long-term safety of psychiatric drugs used on children or the effect on children's developing brains and bodies. The vast majority of these drugs are not FDA-approved for use in children, but they are prescribed for children nevertheless.
Two of the three classes of these drugs are under the FDA's stringent warnings for suicide and violence. They also interfere with learning, causing violence, neurological problems, diabetes and heart attacks.
Ritalin is prescribed to address what is called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a disorder first defined in 1980. The pediatric guidelines for diagnosing ADHD are subjective, such as, child often has difficulty awaiting his turn, occasionally may do things compulsively, easily distracted from tasks, fails to give close attention to details, and makes careless mistakes.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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