Medication for teens needs to be one option among many

Medication For Teens Needs to Be one Option among many

Medication for Teens Helped Nick

Troubled Teen (Not Nick)

Troubled Teen (Not Nick)

Nick, the middle child of a friend, had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) so bad that the school district paid to send him to a special residential school out of town.  He went through medication for ADHD, anxiety, and mood swings.

At 17, Nick is off all meds, and is in the mainstream school. He still has trouble learning, but he has friends and a girlfriend, and is not a behavior problem.

Nick Had Medication for Teens PLUS

Medication for teens was helpful and necessary, Nick’s mother says, but the special school gave him much more: two staff members for each student, accountability for his behavior, and periodic vacations from his medication.

The school knew when Nick’s behavior was caused by the medical issue, and “when the kids were just being jerks,” his mother said.  “They did not blame everything on ‘the poor child’s delicate condition.”

The school taught the parents to know the difference — not to blame a teen with emotional distress for behavior he could not control, but to make him stay in line when he could.

He also pursues a wholesome, validating interest.

Like his father, who is not academically talented, Nick has tremendous mechanical intelligence. He can concentrate for hours on an engine or his truck, and learn anything he needs to know to solve a mechanical problem he’s working on.

Anything a teen is interested in and good at can be the difference between medical stability and full recovery:  gardening, music, acting in plays, individual or team sports, organized youth groups, collecting, nature.

Medication for Teens Hurt Laura

Medication for teens hurt Laura Delano

Medication for Teens Hurt Laura Delano

Until she was 14, Laura Delano was a super-kid, a perfectionist in school, athletics, singing, plays, student government — a role model.  She defined herself by her accomplishments, and by the reactions of others to what she did.

She had a vague feeling that maybe she was just acting the way she was expected to, not fully expressing or even knowing who she really was.

Years later, Laura sees this as normal adolescent self-doubt and insecurity.

Her parents sent her to a psychologist in 8th grade.  Laura says she hated the visits.  They went nowhere, and she became angrier.  In 9th grade, the psychologist sent her to a psychiatrist, who could supplement treatment with medication, the psychologist told her

As Laura’s inner doubts and disturbance grew, the psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and gave her mood stabilizers.  To Laura, bipolar meant “crazy.” She rejected the diagnosis and flushed the medication down the sink.

Sophomore year, she went to boarding school.  She let go of some perfectionism, and enjoyed adventures with her girlfriends, breaking rules against smoking cigarettes, without getting caught.

Before junior year, she developed an eating disorder.

In her moving, beautifully written story of her years with emotional distress, she calls 10th grade “The Eye of the Storm,” where the chaotic winds stopped and the skies cleared briefly. Her full story is at http://www.madinamerica.com/author/ldelano/

She embraced her bipolar label and started taking medicine when she was a college freshman.  She was hospitalized in college in 2004, and graduated Harvard in 2006.

After college, in 2008, she attempted suicide and was hospitalized again.  There were two more hospitalizations, “before I found recovery in February, 2010.”

In February, 2012, Laura is a 29-year-old writer,  researcher,  lecturer, and peer specialist.  She is off all medication, has no mood swings, and wonders how her life would have been different if her normal early adolescent confusion had been treated with understanding and a compassionate ear instead of a disease label and medication for teens.

Medications for teens needs to presented as one options among many options:

Nick got medication for teens and more from his school, and got well.  Laura’s normal teenage feelings were treated as symptoms of a disease. Medication for teens was presented as the only option. It made her situation worse. Many other options for young people in emotional distress are available, including exercise, nutrition, increasing or reducing structure, talking to other peers, finding enjoyable activities, and learning self-support strategies.  Our position is not anti-medication, we are against medications “first, forever, and for everyone.” This is more evidence based positon.

What has been your experience in trying to find honest information about using medications for teens?

Wordworks Blog Author: Ken Braiterman

Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair, has been an activist, news reporter, opinion writer, and columnist since 1968. From 1997 to 2009, he was New Hampshire's leading advocate for recovery-based mental health services. He is an advanced Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

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