Professor Sir Simon Wessely (left) blames “overbearing parents” rather than GPs and psychiatrists for the large increase in psychiatric drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac that are prescribed to children.
According to the Daily Mail last week, the President-elect of the Pharma-friendly Royal College of Psychiatrists told The Times that: ”There is a growing trend of medicating normal traits in children … it is becoming less common for children to be labelled as ‘shy’ but they are more likely to be branded as having a social phobia or a behavioural problem … Certain behaviours carry stigma and there’s less stigma if it’s associated with a disorder. Often it’s about the avoidance of guilt.“
Overactive children are often labelled as having ADHD. Around 400,000 children are believed to have been diagnosed with ADHD in the UK, with many of them being prescribed drugs such as Ritalin to try and improve their concentration at school. According to recent figures, the use of ADHD drugs has trebled over the past decade and antidepressant usage with children has also increased considerably.
“Even schools are benefiting from mislabelling pupils,” says Professor Wessely, “as the more special-needs children there are in a school, the more funds they’ll get.”
“The current fashion to label and try to treat aspects of human behaviour is not only unsustainably expensive, it may also prove injurious to the health of society as a whole … Individuals should not be subject to … a pseudo-diagnosis that does little more than stigmatise the particular personality trait they happen to possess and which a prevailing majority view happens to deem unacceptable. Many conditions are created in the naming and the diagnosis often does no good at all.
“Nor, other than as a last resort, should a child suffering no apparent physical ailment be routinely placed on long-term medication, whatever difficulty that child’s actions may create for those adults charged with his or her care. A chemical response may well be convenient but convenience seldom makes for the correct or the civilised course of action. Anxious parents and overzealous doctors are making a problem worse.”
In Simon Wessely’s world, the blame for the over-prescription of drugs to children lies with the anxious parents, not the overzealous doctors. In the real world, children are killing themselves while on psychiatric medication. A few months ago, I wrote an article about the deaths of Patrick, Martha, Pauline, Tallulah and Harry, each of whom had been prescribed antidepressant medication at some point before they took their lives. Parent or prescriber? You decide.
And if parents think that mind-altering medication is the solution to their child’s perceived problem, could it not be that their belief stems from information that would probably have emanated originally from psychiatrists?
Whether you are a parent (pushy or otherwise) or a prescriber, you might consider reading this excerpt from the book Side Effects: Death (Confessions of a Pharma insider) by John Virapen, available as a free download. Although this book was first published in 2009, it is, regrettably, still relevant:
The devastating side effects of Fluoxetine have been known for more than twenty years, as well as its relative ineffectiveness regarding what it alleges to achieve. You’d think, that, in the meantime, even the last doctor would have heard just how dangerous this active ingredient can be for adults – and would have steered well clear of it.
Not the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), though. In a press release from June 6, 2006, it recommends the use of Fluoxetine on kids: “Parents and doctors should carefully monitor children and youths being treated with it and watch out for suicidal tendencies.”
Watch out for kids with suicidal tendencies? Nice wording for a package insert. The pharmacist hands you the package over the counter, the customer in the line behind you blows his nose and the pharmacist says “Good bye,” and then he remembers: “Oh yeah – and please watch Peter for signs of suicidal tendencies. Bye.”
I have to ask you: isn’t the manufacturer admitting here, that this drug, which is actually supposed to be a mood lifter, actually causes the exact opposite? The EMEA also publishes: “The US manufacturer, Eli Lilly, should also carry out further studies on the safety of the drug.”
Excuse me for asking, but shouldn’t such studies have been carried out, before the product was brought onto the market? And the ultimate question: Doesn’t this indicate that this drug, Prozac, which has been on the market for twenty years, actually isn’t safe?
According to the EMEA, the recommended daily dose shouldn’t exceed 20 mg. That means that kids are getting the same amount of the active ingredient as adults – and that is four times the amount the Swedish expert had considered to be justifiable for adults in the 1980s.
Fluoxetine was not used on children in the clinical studies that were carried out prior to approval. Do you remember? All groups, that appeared difficult in some respect, including people who had psychological problems, were excluded from the tests.
You have to ask yourself: Who exactly are these people at the European Medicines Agency? And who pays them? As far as that is concerned, I have a strong suspicion.
Neither parents nor prescribers are to blame for an increase in child suicides, if we are to believe Dr Christine Lu (left) of Harvard University; the fault lies instead with those who warn of the inherent dangers of antidepressants. Her recent ill-informed study purported to have found that suicide attempts in young people had actually risen following the decrease in the prescription of antidepressants that came about after the FDA issued warnings against the practice.
Although the UK’s Daily Mail repeated the findings uncritically, the study was widely discredited by authoritative sources such as Professor Peter Gøtzsche (right) from Denmark, who exposed the flaws in the study, concluding that “The findings in the report by Lu et al. should be ignored. SSRIs don’t decrease suicidal behaviour in young people, as they claim. SSRIs increase it, and it seems that the risk increases with dose, as would be expected.”
Professor Louis Appleby (left) is about to lead “the UK’s first national investigation into suicide in children and young people” at Manchester University. The respective roles of parents and prescribers are possibly beyond his remit, but he seems ready for the possibility that the computer may be to blame. He has stated that the investigation “will look at the role of social media and internet sites in suicides,” but has failed to mention whether he will also look at the role of psychiatric medication.
We have already seen how, at the inquest of Tallulah Wilson (right), the Internet may well have been used as a scapegoat to avoid challenging the possible mis-prescription of antidepressants that had occurred previously.
It is evident that Professor Appleby’s investigation could not possibly be expected to establish a causal link between antidepressants and suicide. But then, neither could it establish a causal link between a child’s death and the Internet or Social Media, not to mention bullying, broken relationships, pre-exam stress or any of the other factors that tend to arise at the inquests of schoolchildren.
As the influence of Prozac and other drugs is under such increased scrutiny at present, for Professor Appleby to ignore the role of psychiatric medication such as Prozac or Ritalin would mean that his investigation would be completely without credibility or validity.