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Isabella Brooke Knightly and Austin Gamez-Knightly

Isabella Brooke Knightly and Austin Gamez-Knightly
In Memory of my Loving Husband, William F. Knightly Jr. Murdered by ILLEGAL Palliative Care at a Nashua, NH Hospital

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pill Popping Kids Of America

Published: 15 Apr 2010

PUTTING children with behavioural conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on prescription drugs is rife in the US. In his latest documentary, Louis Theroux travelled to the Western Psychiatric Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a leading centre in the treatment of children with mental health problems, to meet the kids, the families and the doctors who believe medication is the only way to tackle their conditions. It is estimated that between five to eight per cent of all American school children have been diagnosed with ADHD. In the UK the figure is 500,000, with around 60,000 of those taking medication. Louis Theroux: America's Medicated Kids, is on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday. Here, Louis, 39 - who has two sons aged four and two - gives TV Features Writer KATE JACKSON his verdict on the issue and, on the right, we look at three of the children featured on the show.
I WAS interested in the subject as a parent - and also because it seems there's a large grey area with these diagnoses.

There are clearly people who are mentally ill, there are people who clearly aren't, and there are some people in the middle who could go either way.

In terms of the kids who get diagnosed, I would say the majority seem to be on medication.

I don't know if that's shocking or not shocking. It's certainly a controversial area. It's easy, as a lay person, to pronounce on these things.

The idea of drugs is scary.

Doctors at Western Psych aren't too worried about long-term effects of the stimulant drugs for ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin.

But it's not clear what the long-term side-effects would be on the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, which Hugh is taking.

I spent a few days with ten-year-old Hugh and, to be honest, it was hard to tell whether he was a kid with a mental health problem or just a difficult kid. Certainly, the professional consensus is the former.

I liked him but at the same time I found him quite difficult.

He was rude at times. I would ask him something and he would just wander off.

I asked him, "Do you know better than me about most things in the world?" and he said, "Yeah, I think I do."

In a weird way I found that endearing - but I don't have to live with him. At one point Hugh refused to have a shower and I asked his mum, Barbro, how she rated that experience on a stress level of one to ten.

She rated it a seven, which was a surprise. You would think if you lived with a kid who was difficult, and what they call oppositional defiant, you could roll with the punches a bit more.

That's just my reaction.

Don't a lot of ten-year-old kids say "I hate you" and refuse to take showers?

I have to wrestle my four-year-old son into the bath most nights.

I felt maybe Barbro had got to the point where she had been dealing with this for so long that she had sort of run out of patience - or that it took less to wind her up.

Maybe she needs to take some time out.

I then met Jack, a six-year-old with obsessive compulsive disorder who was on an anti-depressant.

From what I understand, a six-year-old in Britain is unlikely to be on that medication. It's perhaps a little too young.

Again, as a lay person, I wasn't sure whether the diagnosis was completely valid, and even if it was, whether medication was the right road to take. But when his parents can't find a mainstream school to take him, you have to treat that seriously.

There was also Kaylee, 15, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and who volunteered to stop taking her medication to show us what a difference it makes to her behaviour.

We arrived about 9am and, after a couple of hours, Kaylee started getting a bit hyperactive and silly.

Her behaviour did seem to change, and she had a headache and a feeling of irritability.

I don't know if those were withdrawal symptoms but she aborted the experiment and went back on the medication.

She seemed a little self-conscious about her diagnosis. She mentioned that she had told a male friend that she had ADHD and seemed relieved that he didn't find it too weird.

I came from a British perspective that Americans are over-medicating.


The original title for the documentary was Medicalised Normality, with the idea that we're creating these medical categories for things that would have been considered normal in the old days.

Now you're not naughty, you're oppositional defiant.

You're not fidgety, you've got ADHD.

I was one of these people who thought ADHD was just a technical word for a kid who couldn't sit still. But there are kids who are really being helped by having that diagnosis.

There are adults who dropped out of school because they couldn't sit still, and they wish they had been diagnosed with ADHD instead of just being considered a problem child.

Having been to Pittsburgh and seen how much the parents believe in the drugs - and how much of a difference it has made in their lives - the issue of medication is much less clear-cut in my own mind.

And as a parent, the idea of medicating a kid is off-putting.

But none of these parents was rushing to put their kids on drugs.

It was more that the doctors were advising it and the parents were at their wits' end.

It would be a very difficult decision and you would have to weigh up where the kid was at and how extreme his or her behaviour was getting.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2933351/Putting-children-on-prescription-drugs-is-rife-in-the-US.html#ixzz0lJNFqL9K

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