The New York Times recently reported that between 1994-2003, the number of children diagnosed as having bipolar disorder has jumped 40 fold, from 20,000 to 800,000 per year. These kids are being treated with drugs that include anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and stimulants. I know from my work with the ADD/ADHD population that during the same nine year period, there was over a 400% increase in kids age 2 to 4 years old being medicated, even though the Physicians Desk Reference does not recommend common ADD drugs like Ritalin for children under the age of eight. What's going on?
Because of the ADD/ADHD focus my work took in the mid-to-late nineties, I've often spoke about how these kids were viewed as a computer virus by the mainframe computer we call public education. These bright, inquisitive, and challenging children exposed the deficiencies of the public education system. And like anything that is fighting for its life, the system fought back.
A "drugging'em up and dumb'em down" attitude serves the system well. In my book Managing The Gift: Alternative Approaches For Attention Deficit Disorder, I wrote about how ADD is part of the evolutionary process of the human species, and why it is truly a gift. As my work continued, I watched as diagnoses of all kinds of children's mental "disorders" increased. And I saw how the medical cocktails that doctors and the school system used to "solve the problem" were performing the chemical equivalent of a lobotomy.
Why? Our children frighten us; they represent a level of change and new self-awareness that frightens many of the educational system bureaucrats that we have allowed to rise into positions of power. They question and see things that we don't always want to see or acknowledge. Many of these questions make the powers that be feel uncomfortable or bring up questions they don't want to answer.
In addition, the physical, emotional and intellectual worlds so many of our children are now being exposed to rob them of their childhood at younger and younger ages. They are now being sexualized from the time that they can walk and talk, and children are being sexually victimized in increasingly large numbers.
There is a growing level of anger at the loss of those things that children were once able to take for granted. Through movies and TV, today's children get to see and hear about a time in this country when children were allowed to be children. They have glimpses of a time when neighborhoods provided a real sense of community and neighbors were like extended family members. They feel the loss of present parenting, safe neighborhoods to play in, and the freedom to be a child during childhood.
The isolation children experience when they communicate mainly through computers/the Internet and cell phone texting is causing a decrease in real world social skills. At the same time, children are expected to "be normal" and are pressured to get what they need to perform well on tests while coping with the problems of being squeezed into overcrowded classrooms caused by shrinking educational budgets.
These things and more are giving our kids anxiety disorders. But instead of working towards making positive changes with them and their environment, we as a society are just getting more free with drugs -- prescription drugs, but still drugs. We make these choices for our children, then are horrified when our teenage child starts changing out the prescription drugs and replacing them with recreational drugs, and we scream foul. But who taught them that drugs were the answer? We did.