The labeling of America's children with mental illness has facilitated an overall "system" that dictates a number of medical decisions that may devastate their lives in the future. This new "system" has occurring influence over the health decisions affecting America's children and this unpreceded increase in children being diagnosed with psychiatric conditions and the prescribing of psychotropic drugs can be traced to collaborative efforts of the drug industry, organized psychiatry, and government agencies. The use of psychotropic drugs in America's children is referred to as "off -labeling" because the drugs have not been approved by the FDA for use in children. This has become more and more controversial and with several pending lawssuits may become quite costly for the drug companies. For pill makers, the battle is worth fighting. In Meagan Barnett's article "The New Pill Pushers" (2004, April) an estimated 23 percent of prescriptions are written for off-label use. This is obviously the reason the big pharmaceutical companies think it is worth the fight and why they are willing to set aside the millions of dollars to settle these suits. According to Dr. Lawrence Diller MD., Pediatrician, in the article "Mental Health Screening: A PhrMA Friendly Remedy for Societal Problems" by Vera Sharav, (2005, December) "No other society prescribes psychotropic medications to children the way we do." The use of off-labeling or unlicensed psychotropic drugs in America's children is actually uncontrolled experimentation providing no factual information or understanding of the effects of these drugs. It is time to raise some very serious questions about this ever increasing practice in America.
The President's New Freedom Commission now recommends screening the entire population for mental illness. This means that 52 million school children will be tested using TeenScreen, which will create a tremendous increase in the number of children labeled with psychiatric illness; adding to the growing number of children taking these mind altering drugs. Eugenicists blamed genes or "bad blood" now psychiatry, induced by the creative marketing of a 10 billion dollar a year pharmaceutical industry, blames a "chemical imbalance" "Mental Health Screening: A PhRMA Friendly Remedy for Societal Problems" by Vera Sharav, ( 2005, December). Even after 30 years there is still no valid research and simply no scientific way to actually prove that a child's behavior problems are the result of a chemical imbalance. Brownlee, S (2006). Is not it time to begin to question the true basis for this practice of unproven biological-genetic theories of "bad behavior" being mental illness? Is the drug industry's marketing strategy about a "chemical imbalance" fact or fiction? The wonder of it all is how the media has been instrumental in promulgating the theory of this "chemical imbalance", when challenged by Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey R. Lacasse in their article, "The Media and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression", the press either did not provide any citations or referred the authors to interesting articles on research. Not a single citation was provided that was direct proof of any chemical imbalance. The only real proof is that the theory of a "chemical imbalance" is just that, a theory, an unproven "idea" that allows the drug industry to promote their psychotropic remedies at a cost we may not know for years to come. "Who will bear the responsibility? … for the hormones likely to follow from mental health screening when children are wrongly labeled as having a mental illness? … for depriving children of a normal child? … for exposure 91%, that's 9 out of 10 children referred for mental health services to psychoactive drugs? … Who will restore children's damaged brains? Who will restore the wondrous magical world of childhood? " (Vera Sharav, President AHRP, 2005).
Adults have studies about the drugs, they know the potential side effects, and they have a voice in making the decision whether or not to take them and also to use them in conjunction with other methods of therapy that will help adjust the thinking process. Children, especially those who are under state care, often referred to as CINA (pronounced: china; child in need of assistance) have no voice. The state makes the decisions for them. Often even family are invented from being part of the solution. Of course if they are unfortunately placed in residential treatment facilities; additional support often comes in the form of restraints and sedation. Judges sitting on the bench of our family court systems are ordering that a child take a medication that has not even been approved by the FDA, schools and teachers are making the decision that unless a child is put on medication they will not be able to attend school. "Medicating Aliah" by Rob Waters provides us with a stark realization of just how powerful this "system" has become. Thirteen year old Aliah Gleason was a B and C student in seventh grade. She had some problems, mostly with her attitude. School officials determined that she had "oppositional disorder" but her parents disagreed, considering her simply a teen that would outgrow her attitude problems. After a mental health screening was conducted, Aliah's parents received a letter from the school. Initially it determined Aliah did not have any real problems but then the Gleasons received a phone call. They were told that Aliah had scored high on a rating rating and needed further evaluation; reluctantly the Gleasons agreed. Six weeks later a child protection worker went to Aliah's school, interviewed her and told Mr. Gleason to take Aliah to the Austin State Mental Hospital. He refused; Aliah was placed in emergency custody, driven by the police to the state mental hospital. She and her parents were separated for the next five months. Aliah ended up spending a total of nine months in state psychiatric hospitals and treatment facilities. While in state care she was in restraints more than 26 times and medicated-against her will and without her parent's consent-with at least 12 different psychiatric drugs, many of them at the same time – polypharmacy in action. The Texas Medication Algorithm Project is funded and in part developed by Jansen pharmaceutical company, the maker of Risperdal. Shon, Steven MD (2006, December). This is only one example of the uncontrolled experiment of America's children.
What role does the FDA play in determining the off-labeled use of psychotropic medicines in America's children; virtual none. The medical industry discusses how to use these powerful mind altering drugs on America's children. DosReis S. et al. (2006). The American Medical Association and the FDA are allowing the off-labeling use of these mind altering drugs in children as young as three years of age; the foster care system is rife with this type of treatment for mental illness, also referred to as SED (serious emotional disorder). Is it possible that the massive and powerful drug industry has paved a "myth" on America with this so called "chemical imbalance" creating a ten billion dollar a year industry? The tobacco industry did. Even more alarming is the practice of Polypharmacy; children being given multiple drugs in the same class of medication, which should be avoided according to Dr.Bellonci (2008, May). Dr. Bellonci offers a clear picture of what steps are necessary in beginning a transformation of the system, "A child taking more than three psychotropic medications should prompt an explanation from the prescribing clinician and may warrant a review by a consultant to the child welfare system. there is a recommendation that a child take more than one medication from the same class of medicines it should be supported by an explanation from the doctor and even a review by the child welfare system ". Dr. Bellonci, a consultant to the State of Tennessee's child welfare system was addressing the House Ways and Means Committee and discussing his concerns regarding policies and procedures relating to psychotropic medication and behavior management. We can not allow the FDA to relegate the decision of the use of off-labeling drugs to the prescribers; we must demand a much more serious look at the unpresented use of this type of drug and that demand is way over due, Caplan P, Cohen E. (2007).
The FDA must immediately put their focus on fact and not fiction. Bosley S. (2004). The idea of a "chemical imbalance" must be validated with sufficient data to warrant this type of marketing and use of these psychotropic drugs in children. The transformation of the child welfare system must start with complete financial disclosure from any doctor prescribing this type of medication. This marketing is now being challenged in a lawsuit under the "False Claims Act" a little (Barnett, 2004) known and seldom used law that was established to protect the government from Medicaid and Medicare fraud. This is not where the issues of whether or not a drug company can promote the use of a dangerous drug like Neurotin for anything other than what it has been sanctioned for by the FDA belongs. Neurotin is approved by the FDA for one purpose; to treat epileptic seizures. When in fact the pharmaceutical company that makes Neurotin Parke-Davis, now part of Pfizer) has been promoting it not just for that purpose but in the children diagnosed as "bi-polar", or having attention deficit disorders.
There are very valid uses for many of these drugs but not in America's children, not without the foundation the must be demanded when considering the possible consequences and certainly not the uncontrolled experiment with these mind altering drugs on America's most precious commodity, children.