Wednesday 5 August, 7.10pm.
In The Medicated Child, reporters confront psychiatrists, researchers and government regulators about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs for troubled children.
In recent years, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of children being diagnosed with serious psychiatric disorders and prescribed medications that are just beginning to be tested in children. The drugs can cause serious side effects, and virtually nothing is known about their long-term impact.
The biggest current controversy surrounds the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder was long believed to exist only in adults, but, in the mid-1990′s, bipolar disorder in children began to be diagnosed at much higher rates, sometimes in kids as young as 4 years-old.
Like many of the 1 million children now diagnosed with bipolar disorder, DJ Koontz was diagnosed at 4 years-old, after his temper tantrums became more frequent and explosive. He was recently prescribed powerful antipsychotic drugs. “It is a little worrisome to me because he is so young,” says DJ’s mother, Christine. “If he didn’t take it, though, I don’t know if we could function as a family. It’s almost a do-or-die situation over here.”
While some urge caution when it comes to bipolar disorder in children, there are others who argue that we should intervene with drug treatments at even younger ages for children genetically predisposed to the disorder. “The theory is that if you get in early, …we might delay the onset to full mania,” says Dr. Kiki Chang of Stanford University,” …so that these children never do progress to full bipolar disorder.”