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How Kids Are Getting Hooked on Pills for Life


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How Kids Are Getting Hooked on Pills for Life

Young children were once expected to outgrow their issues; now they're diagnosed with lifelong psychiatric problems.


October 18, 2012

AlterNet / By Evelyn Pringle, Martha Rosenberg


Where do parents and teachers get the idea there's something wrong with kids that only an expensive drug can fix? From Big Pharma's seamless web of ads, subsidized doctors, journals, medical courses and conferences, paid "patient" groups, phony public services messages and reporters willing to serve as stenographers.


Free stenography for Pharma from sympathetic media includes articles like "One in 40 Infants Experience Baby Blues, Doctors Say," on ABC News and "Preschool Depression: The Importance of Early Detection of Depression in Young Children," on Science Daily.


For many, the face of the drugs-not-hugs message is Harold Koplewicz, author of the pop bestseller It's Nobody's Fault, and former head of NYU's prestigious Child Study Center. In a 1999 Salon article, Koplewicz reiterated his "no-fault" statement, assuring parents that psychiatric illness is not caused by bad parenting. "It is not that your mother got divorced, or that your father didn't wipe you the right way," he said. "It really is DNA roulette: You got blue eyes, blond hair, sometimes a musical ear, but sometimes you get the predisposition for depression."


Many regard the NYU Child Study Center, which Koplewicz founded and led before leaving in 2009 to start his own facility, as helping to usher in the world of brave new pediatric medicine in which children, toddlers and infants, once expected to outgrow their problems, are now diagnosed with lifelong psychiatric problems. The Child Study Center is “a threat to the health and welfare of children,” and its doctors are “hustlers working to increase their 'client' population and their commercial value to psychotropic drug manufacturers,” charged Vera Sharav, president of the watchdog group, Alliance for Human Research Protection.


A look at the center's stated mission provides no reassurance. Its goal of "eliminating the stigma of being or having a child with a psychiatric disorder," and "influencing child-related public policy," sounds a lot like a Pharma sales plan. And its boast about having "a structure that allows recruitment of patients for research studies and then provides 'real-world' testing for successful controlled-environment findings," could send chills down the backs of parents afraid their kids will be guinea pigs or money-making subjects.


In 2007, the fears of the Child Study Center's skeptics were confirmed when it launched an aggressive, scare tactic marketing campaign called Ransom Notes in 2007. "We have your son," said one ad, created with bits of disparate type like a ransom note from a kidnapper. "We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning…Autism."


"We have your daughter. We are forcing her to throw up after every meal she eats. It’s only going to get worse," said another ad signed "Bulimia."


"We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay," said another add from "ADHD." Other ransom ads came from kidnappers named Depression, Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD.


Created pro bono by advertising giant BBDO, the ads were planned to run in New York magazine, Newsweek, Parents, Education Update, Mental Health News and other publications and on 11 billboards and 200 kiosks, according to the press release.


Immediate Outrage


The hostage campaign drew immediate public outrage and more than a dozen advocacy groups joined together in an online petition calling for an end to it. “This is a demonstration of the assaultive tactics used by psychiatry today--in particular, academic psychiatrists and university-based medical centers that are under the influence of their pharmaceutical partners,” Vera Sharav wrote in alerts to AHRP’s mailing list. “If Dr. Koplewicz et al. are not stopped, the campaign will be hitting the rest of the country,” she warned, and informed readers that the campaign was formulated by BBDO, “a major direct to consumer prescription drug advertising firm,” asking the New York State Attorney General’s office to investigate.


Days after the backlash, the center revoked the advertising campaign “after the effort drew a strongly negative reaction,” reported the New York Times. Koplewicz told the Times the decision was made by the center with no pressure from New York University and they planned to introduce a new campaign in the next three months. However, he left the Child Study Center at NYU in 2009 to start his own facility, initially called the Child Study Center Foundation, but changed to the Child Mind Institute, in 2010.


There was more controversy when Koplewicz left the center. When he announced his resignation, New York University "forbade him from entering his office and it pushed out professors who had said they wanted to join him at Child Mind Institute,” reported the New York Times. Twelve NYU professors nevertheless followed Koplewicz to the Child Mind Institute as well as most of the Child Study Center’s influential board of directors, which included Garber Neidich, a chairwoman at the Whitney Museum, the founders of the Tribeca Film Festival founders and some well known financiers. The toxic send-off was followed by the New York State Office of Mental Health firing Koplewicz from his job of nearly four years as director of the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, an affiliate of NYU School of Medicine.


Though Koplewicz' Child Mind Institute is supposedly a non-profit, it is ensconced on Park Avenue in Manhattan and Koplewicz' hourly rate “can be as high as $1,000 (three to four times that of the average Manhattan therapist),” says the Times. In a chilling interview on Education Update Online, Koplewicz says the reason his institute works closely with schools "is simply that’s where the kids are" (bringing to mind Willy Sutton, who robbed banks because "that’s where the money is").


Last month in the Wall Street Journal, Koplewicz wrote that "no studies have examined the effect of long-term use" of ADHD meds, but they "have been in use for 70 years, and there is no evidence that suggests any adverse effects." But there has been a large federal study of the long-term effects of the drugs and it shows they are "ineffective over longer periods," and "that long-term use of the drugs can stunt children's growth," reported the Washington Post. Oops.


Other Pediatric Drug Proponents


Only one child in 10,000 has pediatric schizophrenia--some say one in 30,000--but for Pharma it is an untapped market. Symptoms of childhood schizophrenia include "social deficits" and "delusions...related to childhood themes," writes Gabriele Masi, in an article titled "Children with Schizophrenia: Clinical Picture and Pharmacological Treatment," in the journal CNS Drugs. What child doesn't have "social deficits" and "delusions" like imaginary playmates?


Masi has received research funding from Eli Lilly, served as an adviser to the drug company Shire, and been on speakers bureaus for Sanofi Aventis, AstraZeneca, GSK and Janssen, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.


Joining Masi in pursuing pediatric pathology is Joan L. Luby, director of the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, she alerts the world to the problem of "preschool depression." Researchers used to believe that "young children were too cognitively and emotionally immature to experience depressive effects," says the paper, which was widely picked up the mainstream press, but they now believe preschoolers can and do suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD). "The potential public health importance of identification of preschool MDD is underscored by the established unique efficacy of early intervention during the preschool period," says the article. Translation: Big Pharma can clean up if kids are diagnosed young.




Two features that characterize the pediatric medicine practiced by the NYU Child Study Center, Koplewicz, Mani, Luby and Pavuluri are they term the "diseases" they identify undertreated and underdiagnosed and they urge early treatment when symptoms first appear. (Before the symptoms go away on their own?)


Yet the very fact that such diseases are lifelong conditions is reason to wait to medicate, said Mark Zimmerman, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital at the 2010 American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in New Orleans. Nor can parents with medicated children know if their kids even needed the drugs, since symptoms from the drugs are often called the "disease," says Peter Breggin in a recent interview.


One thing doctors on both sides of the pediatric drug controversy agree on is that the decision to put a child on drugs will likely sentence him or her to a lifetime of medications. What they disagree about is whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. Read More

As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! A proud supporter of the 10% (or slower) rule.


Requip - 3/16 ZERO  Total time on 25 years.


Lyrica: 8/15 ZERO Total time on 7 or 8 yrs.

BENZO FREE 10/13 (started tapering 7/10)  Total time on 25 years.


Read my intro thread here, and check the about me section.  "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up." Lily Tomlin



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I think i'm gonna be sick


Pretty bad smartgun, awful.


Alto.. feel free to edit the above further. Think maybe I should have left more out.. sorry. Will do so next time round. I kind of got caught up in the contents.. sadly, one of the more representative accounts of what is going on with childhood psychotropics.

As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! A proud supporter of the 10% (or slower) rule.


Requip - 3/16 ZERO  Total time on 25 years.


Lyrica: 8/15 ZERO Total time on 7 or 8 yrs.

BENZO FREE 10/13 (started tapering 7/10)  Total time on 25 years.


Read my intro thread here, and check the about me section.  "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up." Lily Tomlin



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  • 8 months later...

I was put on meds at the tender age of 13. Three SSRIs, two SNRIs, two mood stabilizers, and two ADHD meds. What I realize now is that I was never "Bipolar," nor did I have ADHD......it was my still developing brain and body reacting to these very powerful substances.

1993: Diagnosed with "Depression" & "GAD, given Prozac
1994: Diagnosis changed to Bipolar II, Lithium added
1994-1997: Tried Wellbutrin and Zoloft
1997: Prescribed Effexor XR & Depakote ER
2012: Stopped Depakote, decreased dose of Effexor over the course of 2 or 3 months, used Prozac to help
2012: Stopped Prozac, began noticing disturbing symptoms after a few weeks of being antidepressant free.
late 2012: Prescribed Cymbalta
2013: Felt disconnected, disoriented, not "real".... Dr. recommended increasing the dose from 30mg to 60mg. Increased dosage was too much for my body/brain to handle....I had a very nasty reaction.

2014: Tried to go off Cymbalta. It did not work. I now take 15 beads.

2016: I take 3 beads daily...can't get off this crap. Obvious brain damage...most days I feel defeated and hopeless.



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I worry about this a lot. See, I think my generation, or at least the well-educated, progressive-leaning crowd I know, have much less stigma toward illnesses like depression, OCD and bipolar, but it comes with a greater acceptance of the necessity of medication in controlling these issues. We pass around the mentality of "get help/ treatment you need," which would be great if treatment was really help.  


Personally, I don't think there's anything innately wrong with using medication to help control emotional symptoms, assuming these drugs aren't innately harmful, that is. But it needs to be a personal decision based off real, informed information, availability of alternatives and an understanding that humans have their own unique strengths and weakness and experience reality differently. In fact, we should be teaching everyone how to better interact with themselves and the world and helping people work with their own abilities.


Did anyone see the Frontline documentary called "The Medicated Child?" (It's on Netflix for streaming if you haven't) It follows the lives of a few kids who have been given lifelong diagnoses. As a person who was told they were not right as a young kid, it truly hurts me to see these young ones growing up without the chance at personal discovery and acceptance.

Tapering Zoloft, Dec 2014

Started Lamictal

Re-started Zoloft mid-Oct 2014, 25-50mg

Stopped Zoloft end of Sept 2014

Started Zoloft July 2014, 50mg

Stopped Prozac from 3mg May 2014

Stopped Effexor Dec '13 Started 10mg Prozac

Reinstated Effexor 15mg on Nov 2013

Stopped from 21mg on Oct 2013
Effexor 112.5mg, since Dec 2012

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