Why is the obvious harm done to children ignored for so long?
Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a blowout story about child overmedication. He was only 20 years late.
Writer Matt Richtel tells the story of Renae Smith, a high school freshman who was prescribed more and more psychiatric drugs for her anxiety and depression until she was on 10 different drugs.
Pointing out that “many psychiatric drugs commonly prescribed to adolescents are not approved for those under 18,” the article quotes Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston: “You can say very convincingly that we don’t have evidence of what it means to be on multiple psychotropic medications. It’s a generation of guinea pigs.
It’s horrible. It’s a parody. This is a very old and known problem.
In fact, the Times article points to decade-old studies showing that psychiatric drug use among adolescents has been on an upward trajectory for a long time now. “A national study published in 2006 examined records of doctor’s office visits by people under the age of 20 and found a large increase in office visits involving the prescription of antipsychotics – to 1.2 million in 2002 versus 200,000 in 1993.”
Everyone knew this was happening, and we knew it was wrong.
As the use of antidepressants among children has skyrocketed, so has suicide. Suicide rates among people aged 10 to 24 rose 60% from 2007 to 2018, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have risen further during the pandemic.
It is not a tenuous link. In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration added a “black box” warning that antidepressants can cause suicide. Two years later, it updated the warning specifically to include children and teenagers.
The Conservatives have been saying that for years. In fact, last month, when Tucker Carlson argued that SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant, were overprescribed, the headlines attacked him.
“Why the far right is going after antidepressants,” roared the Huffington Post as Rolling Stone yelled, “The far right’s next target for a Bulls-t moral panic.”
Looks like the New York Times is way off right now.
The biggest problem is not so much the politicization of something like medicine, although that is certainly a problem. It’s that we have to pretend that things that are obviously bad, like teenagers being prescribed nearly a dozen hardcore psychiatric pills, are OK when we all know they’re not.
It’s also hard not to notice a similarity to another guinea pig experiment conducted on children. Boston Children’s Hospital was forced to update its website this month when it emerged it was offering ‘gender-affirming hysterectomies’ for underage girls. The update said you had to be 18 to have your cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes removed.
An 18-year-old can’t legally smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol — but completely altering their body is okay, and anyone who rightly says it’s horrible is called a transphobe.
And other experiments are carried out on much younger children. Puberty blockers have been all the rage in the medical community for many years. St. Louis Children’s Hospital says its transgender center offers blockers that “can delay unwanted changes such as breast growth, facial hair, menstruation, and deepening of the voice” as well as “hormone therapy for helping a person’s body match their gender identity”.
This combo can stunt growth, prevent the person from having an orgasm, and lead to infertility. Yet experiments on these guinea pigs continue.
We know that’s crazy, just like we know kids who take handfuls of antidepressants are crazy. We don’t need the New York Times to finally realize that in a few decades. They are our children, and they deserve far more care and attention than the medical profession is giving them. First do no harm. But first, stop hurting children.