Ok, this is probably going to be a controversial post so I'll get a few things out of the way before I begin.
- Just a reminder that I am not a doctor - no medical advice from me should ever be taken seriously - go see a professional before you take any medication.
- My stance on medication: I'm not anti-medication but I am anti-harm. It's my belief that the only reason a child should be on medication is if it is doing them more good than harm.
As I write this, my youngest child has just been diagnosed with ... well, nothing in particular. Our pediatric psychologist surprised us by simply saying that since it was obvious that he had emotional issues, he should go on Risperdal.
I'll admit to being quite stunned.
I had expected a recommendation of behavioural therapy of some kind - not a drug-based "quick fix". I'd heard some horror stories about the drug but then, being a balanced person, I knew that every drug, particularly those used in children, have horror stories about them.
Most drugs tend to have effects with longer term use rather than short term. This usually means that provided that you don't get any initial bad effects, it's reasonably safe to use it for a short test period.
I've said before that it's a good idea to preface any test on your children with a test on yourself. It won't prove anything in particular but your genetic material is always going to be a closer match for your child than any test subject. It will also help you to know how the drug tastes, what it feels like and how quickly it reacts.
When looking at the effects of behavioral drugs in your children, there are a few important questions you need to ask (beyond the obvious questions about side-effects).
You need to find out;
- How long the drug will take to get into your child's system?
- How long it will stay there?
- How long before the drug is having an influence on your child?
- What symptoms to look for when it is present
- What symptoms to look for when it is wearing off
- Does the drug need to build up over time? (and if so, what happens if you don't give it on weekends?)
You need to set a definite test period which includes trigger points. After all, how can you measure behavioral change if you're tip-toeing around your child all day long? You also need to set a definite end-date. Don't test medications for months, one or two weeks is perfectly sufficient for most. In the case of some, like Ritalin, you should expect to see results in a couple of days.
In our case, the doctor recommended that we try Risperdal first at .25mg, then at .5 and finally, if there was still no effect, at 1mg. We're currently testing at 1mg having had our son on each dosage for two days. We have seen absolutely no change - and for that, I'm grateful.
You see, Risperdal has some terrible and well-documented side effects. It was only approved for use against irritability in children with autism in 2006. That's a tad recent for me.
If the Risperdal had been effective, then I'd have had to weigh up the pros and cons of using it in the long term. In this case, it would have been a very, very difficult decision.