Pharmaceutical Parenting: Parental Rights vs Big Pharma

Whenever I talk to parents about school safety and concerns about gun violence, a discussion always comes up on how things were different when we were kids, and what things were different. What was different? Lots of things. But one of them was that parents parented their children differently and medication wasn’t the solution for every mental health or behavior issue children had.

Mental health is elaborate and involves more than just brain chemistry. As as society we have been taught, over time, that kids “need” medication. But, what if what kids need is stronger families, better parenting, and a school system that allows kids to be kids? This is what many parents, as well as professionals think. Many of the medications kids are taking have not been around long enough to truly know the long-term effects they will have and they are being given to children as young as 2 and 3. While medication is being pushed as the solution to kids mental health issues, parents and some mental health professionals, question not just whether or not medications work but whether they are safe for children.

kids and psychiatric meds

Are pharmaceuticals Linked to School Shootings?

Is it okay to question the science — and money — behind big pharma? Certainly. Could there be a link between school violence and pharmaceuticals? Many think so.

According to CCRH, a mental health watchdog, psychotropic drug use by school shooters merits federal investigation. I agree. The website lists 36 school shooters who either were on or withdrawing from psychiatric medications. It’s easy for a person to simply dismiss this as these people were at risk for suicide anyway. If that were so, the FDA would not have black box warning labels on these medications.

Many psychiatric medications given to children come with black box FDA labeling warning professionals of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and unusual behaviors which include the following symptoms: anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania.

If you have never heard of akathisia, it is a side effect caused by a number of psychiatric medications described as a feeling that is agony, maddening or like going out of your skin. According to an article in the New York Times on antidepressants, the distress of akathisia may explain the heightened risk of suicide in some patients, some psychiatrists believe,’ the article explains. “The symptoms are so distressing, a drug company scientist wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, that patients may feel “death is a welcome result.”’

Who is Monitoring the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Evidence based research on pharmaceuticals is highly biased due to study suppression and influence from the pharmaceutical industry

Popular belief is that depression is caused by chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain. This is widely accepted as a fact; however, many believe this is completely unproven. Keep in mind that pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars in antidepressant sales. While they may appear to treat the symptoms of depression, research studies have been less than supportive of this claim, according to psychiatrist Dr. Robert Berezin. Journalist Ben Goldacre discusses how pharmaceutical companies suppress data to make their prescriptions appear to be more effective in this Ted Talk

Arnon Relman, a Harvard professor and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine had this to say about the pharmaceutical industry. “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Parental rights vs Big Pharma

I believe parental rights trump big pharma. And that not medicating a child should be the default whenever there is a dispute. Psychiatric medications, despite what you have heard, are not the equivalent of insulin. Children do not die if they skip their Adderal or Risperdol. Currently, in Michigan the law sides with doctors, therapists, and big pharma, and not the parent.

In the case of parental disputes, parents should not be forced to give their child psychotropic medications

I believe the default for parental disagreements on psychotropic medication should always be to do no harm. I believe not medicating children with psychiatric drugs should be the default, except for in extreme circumstances, such as when a child is proven to be a danger to themself or others. According to Family Law Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler, “Mom or Dad should come prepared to prove to the court that others, including experts, believe that evaluation and possibly treatment would be in the child’s best interests. He or she has to show that the child is suffering either academically or socially or both.” A judge will evaluate the child’s need for medication during a hearing. Once the court decides medication is in order, a parent can lose parenting time if they don’t follow the prescriber’s instruction. Academic and social suffering is subjective and not an indicator of medical necessity.

CPS should not be able to interfere with a parent’s refusal to give psychotropic medication.

According to Michigan’s DHHS, “CPS is not responsible for investigating complaints that allege parents are failing or refusing to provide their children with psychotropic medication such as Ritalin.” However, let’s look at the case of Detroit mother Maryanne Godboldo who was ordered to medicate her child with or surrender her child to the state according to her attorney. Maryanne Goldboldo made headlines when she barricaded herself in her home in order to keep the state from taking her child. She was charged with criminal charges stemming from the case, but those charges were later emphatically dismissed.