PBS Exposes Psychiatric Drugging of USA Children
Public television's "Frontline" is airing a show Tuesday, 8 January 2008, on the psychiatric drugging of USA children, particularly with the super-powerful "antipsychotic" or neuroleptic drugs.
[Forwarded News Release from PBS:]
This Week: "The Medicated Child"
*THIS* Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings)
Live Discussion: Chat with producer Marcela Gaviria, Jan. 9, 2008, 11am ET
This summer, FRONTLINE producer Marcela Gaviria set out to answer a question that has been troubling parents, doctors, and government regulators: Why are millions of American children being prescribed increasingly powerful, behavior-modifying drugs that have not been adequately tested in kids?
In "The Medicated Child," airing Tuesday night, Gaviria takes us deep inside the world of child psychiatry where a debate is growing about how early to diagnose mental illness in children, and which drugs are safe for treatment. At the heart of the story is the dramatic rise of a controversial new diagnosis--bipolar disorder--which, until recently was thought only to exist in adults, but now has been found in over one million children, including a growing number of toddlers. (Watch a preview at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/medicatedchild/ ).
Gaviria finds many who challenge the validity of child bipolar disorder, and others who charge it's being overdiagnosed. But, ultimately, it's parents who are stuck with the hard choices about whether to treat their children with the potent psychiatric drugs prescribed for the disorder.
Meet Jacob Solomon, for instance. A preschool teacher urged his parents to medicate him for hyperactivity, but the diagnosis progressed to bipolar disorder and Jacob soon found himself on a cocktail of prescription drugs that came with serious side effects his doctors don't yet fully understand. "It all started to feel out of control," Jacob's father tells FRONTLINE. "Nobody ever said we can work with this through therapy and things like that. Everywhere we looked it was, 'Take meds, take meds, take meds.'"
Then there's four-year-old DJ whose parents reluctantly agreed to treat him with a new "anti-psychotic" drug for his extreme mood swings. "If he didn't take [the medicine], I don't know if we could function as a family," his mother tells FRONTLINE. "It's almost a do-or-die situation over here." DJ's doctor explains: "It's really to some extent an experiment, trying medications in children of this age. It's a gamble. And I tell parents there's no way to know what's going to work."
So who's monitoring this experiment on our children?
How do doctors decide when a toddler's tantrums cross the line into mental illness?
What are scientists learning about genetics and brain development that might one day remake the entire field of child psychiatry?
Gaviria talks to a broad range of child psychiatrists and researchers, then heads to Washington where she learns something that's sure to give any parent pause at the pharmacy: The Food and Drug Administration knows shockingly little about the effects of most prescription drugs on children.
"Parents need to be aware that all products haven't been studied in children," one top doctor at the FDA tells FRONTLINE. "As a matter of fact, I'd say too high a percentage of time we don't know what we're doing, and we need to study it in kids and get the dosing right and know whether it works in them."
We hope you'll watch this important and timely program Tuesday night, and then visit us online to watch it again, explore the extended interviews with experts, read a parents' guide on psychiatric medications for children, or get answers to some "frequently asked questions." And, join our discussion at: http://pbs.org/frontline/medicatedchild/
Ken Dornstein, PBS