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Children, Bipolar and Antipsychotics

Posted Dec 20 2008 8:24am

How many times will this be the title of one of my entries? I mean, truly, when will this madness end? Every time I read another story my heart breaks and I am furious at the same time. Those of you who are unfamiliar to the world of antipsychotics, I beg you to read this entire blog. and click on the links. Take this excerpt from today’s LA Times for example:

‘I need these pills refilled,” the weary mother says, displaying an array of empty bottles on the desk in my office. “My son is bipolar.”

The boy, a quiet slip of a 10-year-old, had been prescribed two antipsychotics, two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, two attention deficit disorder medications and another medication to manage the side effects of the antipsychotics.

The mother explained that she had just regained custody of her son and his brother. During the last year, while they were in foster care, a doctor had diagnosed the 10-year-old with bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder and prescribed eight medications.

In the hour I spent with the boy and his mother, he exhibited no signs or symptoms of bipolar disorder, though he did display some irritability. In school, he continued to perform poorly in his second attempt at third grade. Both irritability and poor school performance can be significant problems. But I strongly questioned his diagnosis.

There are so many to blame for this problem:
Joseph Biederman
Fred Goodwin
Charles Nemeroff

but we can’t exclude the FDA. The system is broken and corrupt. and needs to be rebuilt immediately. I know from experience and many others know antipsychotics are bad news. Seroquel knocked me out on a daily basis and I was 30. I can’t imagine the effect on a 4 year old. Not to mention these children that are now on 2 to 10 different medications!!! The FDA is aware and they turn their heads. Big Pharma is also guilty. Our children are their guinea pigs and they are laughing all the way to the bank. They know the risks and DO NOT CARE, I can promise you that. AstraZeneca knew the Seroquel risks for years. Lastly to blame, your average joe doctor who sees 25-50 patients a day. They write these prescriptions without blinking and one must wonder if they have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath. If a doctor writes, say, 4 prescriptions for a 10 year old to treat “bipolar”, ok, fine. Now, say 2 of these are antipsychotics and the patient/child returns in 3-4 weeks for a follow-up visit. The child stares blankly out the window while their parent or guardian sits and describes to the doctor their child’s sudden side effects to include any of the following: sedation, weight gain (hello diabetes), movement disorders, muscle spasms, fidgety movements of the legs, restlessness, stiffness, shakiness or things like signs of Tardive Dyskinesia. Now, what does that doctor usually do? I know from experience…they switch medications, usually sticking with the latest, popular, heavily advertised antipsychotic. or they mess around with the dosage. or even worse, they add another medication to manage the side effects from the 4 already prescribed.

to sum up my point on these average joe doctors, they do not care. they are not really listening. i am #11 patient of the day. and you are #12.

It was only recently that I took control of my body and mind—when the Seroquel was destroying my body and I told my doctor (in this case, psychiatrist) diabetes runs on both sides of my family, she ignored me and scribbled another prescription and asked me to return in 6 months without even looking at me. I said, “I’m sorry, but no…I want something else. I want Lamictal, the mood stabilizer”. The Lamictal unfortunately stopped working. I recently had a doctor prescribe me three medications- Abilify (antipsychotic), Celexa (antidepressant) and Xanax (benzo). She prescribed these short term at MY REQUEST. Parents, if you are reading, you must take control. Do the research, if you’ve read this far, click on the many links above. I ask of you one thing: Ask your doctor “what are the long-term risks/side effects of antipsychotics?” Make sure they look you in the eye. And then watch them squirm. Why? Because they (doctors, big pharma, the fda) have no idea what the long-term risks/side effects of these dangerous drugs are. What we do know is this, the short-term side effects are pretty darn bad and are you willing to take that risk? And answer this question- when your doctor prescribes antipsychotics for your child-do they inform you of the dangers? I’ve seen dozens and dozens of doctors, nurses and psychiatrists and they almost never do. If you can afford to do so, seek out alternative options like acupuncture or talk therapy. And if you still don’t believe me (I’m not a doctor but I do have 22 years of experience living with a mental illness), do one more thing: Go to Google and type in “Rebecca Riley”

We need science. We need change. We need more voices.
and those voices need to be loud and clear.

Dr. Leonard Sax has written a great, short article on the bipolar child epidemic and it’s truly worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

Are the medications recommended by these opinion leaders risky for children? We don’t know for sure. Researchers at Harvard have reported that giving medications such as Ritalin and Concerta to young laboratory animals results in those animals displaying a loss of drive when they grow up. There could be a similar phenomenon in our children.

I’ve seen many young men in my own practice who took these medications as children or teenagers and are now content, as twentysomethings, to live in their parents’ homes, work a few hours a week at the coffee shop, and spend most of their free time playing video games.

So the verdict is out. Maybe the drugs are harmful to children. Maybe they aren’t. Would you like to volunteer your child for the experiment?

The Cleveland Clinic may be on the right track toward fixing this problem. The clinic has just begun exposing ties to the drug industry for every one of their doctors. Any doctor who accepts more than $5,000 per year from the drug industry, or any industry, must acknowledge that fact online. The site doesn’t provide the juicy details about exactly how much money each doctor gets, just that it’s more than $5,000.

I’d like to see every other health care facility follow that example - or go further and disclose the actual dollar amount received above $5,000. Or above $500, for that matter.

Until that happens, what’s the bottom line for parents? Buyer beware. If your doctor recommends a medication for your child, ask: What’s known about the long-term risks of this medication? What’s the source of that information?

The traditional rule for good medical practice has been “First, do no harm.” For parents, that translates: “When in doubt, say no.” Don’t let anyone push you into giving your child a drug whose long-term risks are uncertain.

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