Drugs are no substitute for treatment

To the Adirondack Journal:

It is always good to read editorials, like yours, that encourage public awareness of mental health. For too long, our nation has suffered the stigma of mental illness, along with all of its misconceptions.

Having “been there” for struggling youth for so many years, I am aware of another aspect of this problem that needs airing.

With our youth, psychoactive drugs are being used more and more in a custodial way: To sedate the teen because it is much cheaper than providing therapy.

Here are just a few of the alarming statistics that I cite in my recent book:

• On average, 11 million prescriptions for antidepressants for adolescents alone are written every year in the United States.

• A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing anti-psychotic drugs for 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007.

• The number of prescriptions for mood stabilizers, written for children in the U.S., increased six-fold between 1993 to 2002, from 201,000 to 1.2 million.

• Anti-psychotics were the biggest revenue-making drugs of any class, exceeding $14.7 billion per year.

Why is this happening? Aside from the financial savings of prescribing drugs rather than providing therapy, the drug industry is the second most profitable business in the world. For one drug, Seroquel — a commonly employed mood stabilizer for adolescents— the company reaped a net profit of $1.7 billion in one year.

And here is a partial list of documented side effects from that drug: Suicidal thoughts and actions, depression, new or worse depression, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, aggressive acts, acting on dangerous impulses, unusual changes in behavior or mood, drowsiness, involuntary muscle spasms, increased liver enzymes, difficulty swallowing, weight gain, sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness — And this is for a mood stabilizer!

There are circumstances when employing psychotropic medication is warranted, but, whenever possible, it should be for the shortest period of time possible.

To utilize drugs in the way we do with our youth is to prostitute ourselves to the drug companies, and enslave our children in the name of fiscal expediency.

It is immoral!

Irv West


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