|A bad mix: Government, psychotropic drugs, kids
|East Valley Tribune
|January 19, 2008
|Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, chairs the Senate Committee on K-12
Education and the Appropriations Subcomittee on Health and Welfare.
|I’m happy to see that a Tribune editorial writer is concerned
about “the heavy hand of government” (“More Than
a Number,” Our View, Jan. 10.). I agree that government power
should always be monitored and constrained. That’s why it’s
important to watch the state’s behavior in its interactions
with children. The imbalance of power between a state agency and a
child is so great as to make children extremely vulnerable to being
mistreated. Numerous examples exist of children being exploited by
government in drug experiments in all parts of the world, from the
communist countries to Canada and even the United States.
| In the infamous Willowbrook experiment, mentally ill children in
New York were intentionally infected with hepatitis in order to test
the success of inoculation. In another case, AIDS-infected foster
children in a group home in New York City — some of whom were
only months old — were given highly toxic, untested AIDS medications
in a drug experiment that enriched the medical establishment and did
apparently nothing to help the sick children, but increased their
misery and exposed them to severe side effects, such as liver damage,
cancerous tumors, anemia, rashes, and muscle wasting. Foster children
are particularly vulnerable because there is no parent to provide
informed consent or even to comfort the children while they are retching,
vomiting, and otherwise reacting to the side effects of the experimental
| The overuse of psychotropic drugs with children on Medicaid is
a growing concern. For example, in Florida, between 2000 and 2005,
there was an increase of more than 500 percent in the drugging of
children on Medicaid. During this time period, the number of children
who were prescribed psychotropic drugs soared from 9,500 to more than
59,600. More than 1,700 of these children were under three years of
age and were prescribed “off-label” drugs — that
is, drugs that were neither tested nor approved for use with children.
| A growing number of physicians and psychotherapists are speaking
out about the increasing evidence that drugs are often used to “neutralize”
children and make them easier to manage, rather than working with
the children to train them and teach them appropriate behavior. Use
of these drugs as a shortcut to teaching children would be reprehensible
enough but, in addition, the drugs have horrible side effects, including
cardiac arrhythmias, stunted growth, permanent tics, decreased ability
to learn, depression, insomnia, and many more.
| I do not want to secondguess or pre-judge government agencies that
are responsible for children and under whose care drugs are prescribed.
But I hardly think it “heavy-handed” to simply track the
data on prescriptions. The only way to know what the government is
doing is to gather information and statistics. It may be true that
statistics can be manipulated, but statistics also provide useful
information. Before anyone gets defensive, it should be remembered
that requiring an agency to document its actions and provide an annual
report is commonplace and is more about making government transparent
than it is about heavyhandedness.
|Having statistical information allows the Legislature to get a glimpse
into the actions of various state agencies. It can send an alarm or
it can reassure.
| In any case, there is certainly nothing ominous about asking an
agency to open its books to public view. Particularly when children
are involved, it’s important to have all the information possible
to make sure that the children’s safety and well-being are protected.