Once, for a brief time, there was an outrage over child drugging, in particular the use of child protective services and the schools in forcing or coercing this drugging on children.
I remember reading the horror story of Vincent Booth, who was taken away from his mother in the early 2000s when she refused to drug him with the Ritalin the school demanded he take for his “ADHD.” Vincent’s mother, Diane, tried to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to force his school to make accommodations, but had to kidnap her child from a psychiatric clinic after witnessing what was becoming of her drugged-up child in the weekly visits she was permitted—including signs of physical abuse. She wound up getting refugee status in Canada, only to have the Feds find her, kidnap Vincent yet again, and take him to a private, for-profit foster care facility that kept him drugged up while she went on to be imprisoned for a while.
A few years later, I recall the story of Jacob Solomon, one of the kids featured on a 2008 PBS special “The Medicated Child,” which took a highly critical look at giving powerful antipsychotics to young children. Right before the viewers’ eyes, Jacob (diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 10) was transformed from a normal kid to an obviously neurologically impaired person. The reporters followed the family after they had moved and gotten Jacob a new psychiatrist, who blamed his ailments on the stimulant drugs that he had been taking but no longer was, and admitted that doctors are “are still in the dark” about the effects of psych drugs on children’s brains.
The show also told the story of DJ Koontz, diagnosed bipolar at age four, and tracked how his psychiatrist kept adding more and higher doses of drugs to his regimen, even when his parents became concerned about the deadly risks. After the show was broadcast, his mother nevertheless defended their use. And then there was Jessica, diagnosed with bipolar and drugged at five. Where is she now? What has happened to her? (Her mother had feared for her future, saying “You have to put your dreams aside” for a child like Jessica.)
I’ve been waiting for an update on those cases ever since… And, except for this “one year later” memo showing all three kids were still on the drugs, there isn’t any.
Today, with a few exceptions, if you search YouTube with the words “medicating children” or “drugging children,” most of what you turn up is at least five years old. It’s now become acceptable. Instead of continuing to sound an alarm, most of society considers this normal. Media headlines and psychiatrists are even insisting we need to be drugging kids more, not less.
Their cases are similar to my own traumatic experience, one that is long and chaotic and that I’ve had too hard a time telling but hope to soon. For now, I will say that I was a normal kid labeled ADHD, which led to forced drugging—first with Ritalin and then with the neuroleptic Risperdal—leading to painful and terrifying side effects including dystonia, the memory of which haunts me to this day. I was taken from my family and placed in hospitals and special schools, collecting labels and pumped with different drugs, becoming more and more neurologically and emotionally impaired. Whenever I got off drugs for a few weeks, I would start doing better, but that’s right about when the authorities would swoop in and harass my parents about me not being in treatment or in school. Today, at 37, I still feel damaged. I am living on the edge, often self-destructive and stuck on SSI, bumming off my (thankfully, supportive) parents.
That’s why I want to know where all these children are and what happened to them. I know how the system works from being inside it, and I suspect that they probably wound up a ward up the state and have been imprisoned their whole life in group homes, being continually abused by the drugs that ruined their life in the first place while an entire industry profits off the taxpayer dollars they receive for providing this “service.”
I also know that I was one of the “smart” ones that understood what was going on, and resisted. Some of the kids I used to know, either because they had been drugged since preschool or who otherwise cannot handle the reality and suffer cognitive dissonance, play the “good child” to make their parents and psychiatrists happy by blaming their suffering on their “disease” just like the adults do.
Some of them grew up into adults resigned to being “sick,” drugged, and dependent. I recall a young woman in an internet discussion group who confessed to me that her father had repeatedly raped her. When I kept suggesting that she should seek help for that trauma, instead of going on about being “bipolar,” she said something to the effect of, “Do you really expect me to have to talk about that and live with that on my mind on a daily fucking basis for the rest of my life to explain why I went ‘crazy’ and couldn’t function socially and why I’m on disability now! … The drugs keep me numb and stable and SSI qualifies me for subsidized housing and food benefits.”
And what about the ones who got off “in time” to avoid that most damaging and deadly fate, but have to simply go on as dysfunctional trauma survivors from this abuse? What justice and reparations can we expect to receive? Those of us now in our 20s and 30s have so far gotten zero, while we exist in a culture where we’re not seen as victims, and are supposed to be grateful to get a measly $750-a-month disability check at the cost of our autonomy and dignity.
Parents play a role in this cycle when they cover up abuses or otherwise make the mistake of screwing up their kids on drugs and then believe there’s no way of turning back. So they flock to NAMI and the Treatment Advocacy Center, which encourage them to keep their adult children under control via forced psychiatry “for their own good.”
The reason this cycle continues is that the corruption within psychiatry, though well documented, goes unpunished. Back in 2009, The New York Times reported on how Harvard’s Dr. Joseph Biederman “told the drug giant Johnson & Johnson that planned studies of its medicines in children would yield results benefiting the company, according to court documents dating over several years that the psychiatrist wants sealed.” When I first saw that article, I began to hope that maybe justice was around the corner. Instead, it’s as if the whole episode has been forgotten, and Biederman still has his job.
While Robert Whitaker has done a truly heroic job of publicizing the research that shows a significant percentage of people in our society have been disabled by psychiatric drugs, there is still a nagging (I would say screaming) part of that story that has yet to be told about the lifelong consequences of drugging and hospitalizing “problem” kids. Besides the physical and emotional cost to the people involved, also consider the cost to taxpayers and the financial burden on the healthcare system as a whole.
For instance, the fact that “anti-psychotics” cause brain damage should be well known by now and has been reported on this site and elsewhere, including here, here, and here. And yet, according to a recent study there were millions of antipsychotic prescriptions given to young people ages 3-24. Some of them were for unapproved uses. As Mad in America states, a 2016 study found that two-thirds of pediatric prescriptions of antipsychotics were “off-label.”
What will happen to these kids’ brains? My thoughts on their future may be based on bitter experience, but we already have evidence they are being harmed right now. Take a look at these videos of a boy with drug-induced dystonia like I had, and of a little girl with drug-induced tardive dyskinesia.
The public needs to know this. And more importantly, we need to win justice for involuntarily treated minors while using politics and legislation to finally use the mounting scientific data and case reports to expose this extreme child abuse for what it is, provide some sort of restitution for its victims, and bring these atrocities to an end once and for all.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.