Sunday, November 6, 2011

Medications and Special Needs - It's Your Choice

This is a best of the best of the best post.  Check this link after November 15 for a lot of of different perspectives on the same topic by other writers associated with Special Needs.

If you're new to the world of special needs, you'll quickly become acquianted with a list of "hot topics" ranging from debate about the use of jigsaw logos, to the words aspie, aspergian, autie and others. Of course, the biggest debate of all has always been - should we or shouldn't we medicate our children?

It's a good question and there's no easy answer.

Protest Groups
You really can't discuss this topic without talking about protest groups. There are protest groups everywhere and they all have different motivations. Some of them are against any kind of medication - including aspirin, some are based on "knee-jerk" reactions to incorrect research and some are simply reacting to "bad events" or bad press.

Of course, there are some good protest groups around too but they're usually drowned out by their noisier counterparts.

Most of the protest groups have ulterior motivations. They're often less concerned with children than with their own profits, sensationalism and beliefs.  You need to be very wary of their influence.  If you're reading an article and it seems particularly biased against medications, check carefully to see whether it's associated with a protest group before you trust its contents.

Protest groups are also responsible for "programming" friends and relatives to go on the attack against parents who have legitimately been prescribed medications for their children.  You have to watch their sources too because as soon as an anti-medications show airs on a current affairs channel, they'll be on your back again.

Pro Groups
It might sound strange to suggest that there are actually groups out there who are "pro medication". After all, who wants to medicate children unless it's necessary?  Drug companies, that's who. Unfortunately, in many countries, drug companies provide incentives for doctors to prescribe their medications to children on a long-term basis. It's in their interest to get people hooked on their product from an early age.

Sadly, there's no easy way to identify these practitioners for sure; but probably the best clue is when your doctor is constantly recommending that you try one medication after another instead of suggesting therapy and classes. For example, if your child has anger issues, it's perfectly feasible that medication could be the only answer but unless you've given the alternatives, coaching for instance, a go, you'll never know.

Medication should be one of the last resorts, with only surgery being perhaps worse.

Your Choice
The point is that not all medication is good for you but equally, not all medication is bad for you. As parents, you have to make the choice based on the available information - which is unfortunately, biased regardless of its source - and subject to change in the future.

Your best bet is, if possible, to talk to other parents who have children on and off medication and observe the differences between the children.  Note that all children will react differently and although a medication works for one child, it may not work for another.

Find out from your doctor how long it should take before you start seeing effects and stick to the timetable. If the medication appears to have no effect, discontinue.

The other thing to remember is that it's your choice every day.  You don't simply make the choice once and forget because you need to continually review the use of medication as your child gets older, as alternatives come on the market and as more research which could highlight the negatives of your current medications becomes available.

Keep an open mind but at the same time, keep a good eye out for safety and common sense.


Amy said...

Thank you so much for writing about this issue.

Danette said...

Great article, Gavin! You did a good job of presenting both sides of the argument.

Stephanie said...

Excellent points, Gavin. Sometimes medication is the right choice, but it shouldn't be the first choice or, worse still, the only choice.

And all medications have side-effects and medications that are designed to alter psychological states or behavioral patterns are among the worst I've encountered. Never forget that you are, quite literally and quite intentionally, messing with your child's brain.

D. S. Walker said...

The issues you refer to involving doctor incentives were not directly related to medications prescribed by psychiatrist in the U.S. anyway and most insurance companies in the U.S. monitor physician's prescribing practices closely. In fact, insurance companies penalize physicians that oversubscribe and high cost medications require prior approval. Therefore, this is unlikely to be the reason for prescribing these medications.

However, I do agree that they are oversubscribed and the rest of your post is excellent.

Mama Bear said...

Great post! I've been attacked online because I medicate my son for his mood disorder, it is pretty disturbing how people are willing to trash you over a decision that was seriously made to help save our son's life. I really like your final message that this decision can be changed at anytime, we aren't locked into it forever, it's a constant evaluation process.

Martianne said...

Yes. It truly is our choice - and, in the end, our chidlren's. Right now, my husband and I choose NOt to medicate, but we will reconsider over time. More importantly, we hope to educate our son so he can make a "best" choice for himself when he is old enough to do so into adulthood.

Miguel Palacio said...

Just a touch of risperidone rids the peaks of hypersensitivity, anxiety and confusion for me.

But then there are supplements that I take that also do wonders:
• 5-HTP: Lifts the mood, things are more positive. I take one in the morning.
• Noopept: it does _wonders_ in ways you couldn't begin to imagine: Gait, social perception, nuance, awareness of stims and regulation in public settings, understanding of people's emotions, a wider range of communication and longer times that can be spent in a crowded or social setting, my speech is less staccato and less monotone. Noopept does wonders for me. It provides me with a yielding flexibility I never thought possible as an autistic. I can even skip a day or two and feel it's beneficial effects. It also helps me be able to "put myself in other people's shoes", so to speak: See things in other people's perspective. A wider range of emotion. And, best of all, it does all this without removing the positive traits that come with being autistic! My engineering side is still there, not dulled, I still have my special interests. But I know better than to impose them on others if they're not interested. I can't say enough about my experiences with Noopept as an autistic. It allows me to learn new social behaviours more easily.

For example, this is unheard of, I have successfully been in the area of Business Development for more than three years, at the director level. No, I'm not suddenly a schmoozer or winer and/or diner. But I get the job done. As an autistic, I'm still a straight shooter. Yes, this has killed some deals. But it has created more than it has killed. And the ones it has created have been lasting.

Noopept has allowed for a good marriage between the good aspects of autism and the flexibility to employ the social aspects for more extended periods of time without needing to recharge. It has done wonders for relationships. This has been my experience. I would wish it on all other autistics. Oh, my coordination has also improved because of it. I can catch a ball!! I'm less spastic! I stumble much less! I kid you not!! Better at multi-tasking too. The list goes on and on. I wish I had known about it long ago.