voices in the family

Kids and meds




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September 24, 2012 — Several years ago, journalist Judith Warner set out to document something she’d heard so much about: a growing push by parents and doctors to frivolously medicate children in the name of conformity and achievement.  Instead, she found “the myth” of the overmedicated child is just that — an allegory, not a reality.

Her book “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication” spells out how seriously parents take their children’s mental health diagnoses and describes a hesitance on the part of families to medicate their kids due to stigma, lack of information, and limited access to mental health care.

Dr. Dan Gottlieb explores the topic of kids and meds – what parents are doing and what they should know about with Judith Warner and Drs. Tony Rostain and David Rubin.

Judith Warner is a columnist for TIME.com, contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and a 2012-2013 recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. While we’re fortunate to have her on the show, she’ll also be available to discuss her book “We’ve Got Issues” on Monday, September 24 from 5 to 6 p.m. at Irvine Auditorium on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

Psychiatrist Tony Rostain is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Education in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. He also directs the Adult Development Disorders Unit. He’s active in addressing the nonmedical use of stimulants for cognitive enhancement.

A general pediatrician by training, David Rubin is a co-director of PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Rubin has focused his academic pursuits on health policy and practice for vulnerable populations.

Photo credit: AP Images


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  • Julianne

    I am mother to an 8 year old boy with Aspergers Syndrome who has a measured IQ of 139. He is what is called Twice Exceptional or 2E: gifted with a disability. I have considered medication for his ADHD-type behaviors, but in my research on 2E kiddos, the behaviors may be as much or more a result of his intelligence as his AS! Also, he is one of the youngest in his 3rd grade class, which doesn’t help with fidgitiness and lack of focus. I’ve read that kids who are young for their grade have a significantly higher rate of dx with ADHD. His gifted teacher in kindergarten (against policy) mentioned that meds might help. Sinc then, he’s improved greatly, though I’m sure meds would help him ‘fit in’ better. Just another angle on the topic. If others are dealing with this, I hightly recommend the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults by James T. Webb. Thanks for your show!

  • http://WHYY.org Elise An

    One thing I did not hear any comments on was the crisis in the availability of mental health care for children, even if money is not an issue. My health care provider pays for mental health care, but I still was unable to even get an appointment for my daughter, until a family friend, who is a psychiatrist, was able to call in a favor. Every time I called, I was told the wait for an appointment was somewhere in the vicinity of four to six months, which is an incredible time to ask any family to wait!

  • Christine B.

    Am the mother of a42 year old, living at home & out of work (computers). Has privacy issues to the point of paranoia, mostly w/ family, and insists on being “respected” to the point that he makes a mountain out a molehill when some of my foods ‘get on his side of the refrigerator.’ He’s into Power isssues @ home: if I once said “yes, I’ll do that,” and I slip up, he blows up w/ yelling & threats.
    When he was 3, he refused to get Toilet Trained about bowel movements. Went to Children’s Hospital & got a thorough physical workup, showing OK except for Blood Betathalycemia Minor-no big deal. The psychiatrist said she couldn’t do anything but we should go get an outside psychiatrist (NO HELP OR SUGGESTIONS AS TO WHERE TO GET ONE OR WHAT TYPE!)
    Meanwhile, for fear of impacted bowels I tried suppossitories, cod liver oil, and other bodily invasive procedures. . He just refused, all the way through elementary school, where we always sent a clean pair of underwear. He never showed pain when having a bowel movement in his pants.
    He won’t discuss it now, calls it ‘invading his privacy.
    In retrospect, what could I have done??? [About age 6 we went to a Family Therapist, who seemed more interested in us as a couple than in interacting w/my son.] {Got the same deal from the School District at age 11, who gave him a lot of tests and then started him with a therapist. My son quit in a rage when I indicated that I knew he was going to a therapist =Privacy Issues again.}
    Still feel guilty about my invasion of his body. Would appreciate some alternative actions I could have taken, esp. from parents who also had Toilet Training issues, as I believe I could use the verbal ones to dimish the Power Struggle we have going on in house.




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