Now, before we get into this, I'll make it known that I'm totally against giving children psychiatric prescription drugs, unless it's absolutely necessary. A recent study has shown that many foster children with behavioral problems (which, uh, are normal for kids to have — especially kids who are being shuffled through the foster-care system) are being quieted down. And not with anything innocuous like Ovaltine or bedtime stories — with antipsychosis drugs. Also referred to as "major tranquilizers," the prescriptions they typically receive include Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa — usually reserved for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Obviously, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are extremely rare in young children. But two percent of the 400,000-500,000 children in the foster system are on at least one of these medications. The New York Times reports:
"In the study,researchers analyzed 2003 Medicaid records of 637,924 minors from an unidentified mid-Atlantic state who were either in foster care, getting disability benefits for a diagnosis like severe or bipolar disorder, or in a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. All of these programs draw on Medicaid financing. The investigators found that 16,969, or about 3 percent of the total, had received at least one prescription for an antipsychotic drug.
Yet among these, it was the foster children who most often got more than one such prescription at the same time: 9.2 percent, versus 6.8 percent among the children on disability, and just 2.5 percent of those in the needy families program."
I know some of the foster children really do need the medication. But giving kids psychiatric medication is dangerous and life-threatening when it's not necessary. I don't mean life-threatening as in fatal — I mean that after dishing out antipsychotics to children who don't need them, their minds will forever be altered. And, sure, there are worse things than living with with an irremediably fucked up brain, but I can't think of many.