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The Medicated Child [home page]

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What are your thoughts concerning the powerful behavior-modifying drugs being prescribed to millions of American children - but they've not been adequately tested in kids. Do you have a story to share?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a veteran elementary school teacher and the parent of a child who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Auspergers Syndrome. First off, BOTH are mental illnesses...illnesses of the functioning of the brain. We just have done more research into the autistic spectrum and it has better marketing. Also, it is easier to spot a child with autistic spectrum symptoms than one with bipolar.

I agree that diet, alternative teatments and assistance with parenting skills (specifically about parenting an exceptional child) are critical and beneficial to the treatment of my son.

Additionally, however, he requires med treatment to allow him to develop and maintain relationships with peers, which he greatly wants to do. They also allow him to control his moods to a greater degree than he can without them. They help him control suicidal ideations and have decreased his night terrors and certain other anxieties. Basically his life is crippled without them.

I have many times been questioned about the med treatment of my son. I know we have worked diligently to get the best care and treatments available. WE went totally natural at first, using the services of a homeopathic doctor and a naturalpath, dietary changes and therapy. In our case they were not evough, though we continue to use the natrualpath and beleive that she has helped immensely.

The health care system and our society at large is doing a poor job of handling mental illnesses. We closed many facilities here in California in the 80's, leaving mentally ill patients on their own. Mental illnesses are vilified in our society and greatly misunderstood. If my son had asthma and I didn't treat him with the proper medicine I would be considered an unfit parent. Yet there are people who feel we shouldn't treat our child with the medicine available. Bipolar disorder is a potentially deadly disease and those afflicted with it suffer a much greater incident of suicide than the general population.

We found that a PET scan was helpful in supporting the diagnosis, but still our son has not found a balance even with the meds. Bipolar is a moving target and, add to that adolesence, and it's even trickier to treat. I highly recommend avoiding products with high-fructose cornsyrup, and making other changes too. Additionally we make sure that our son takes vitamins and supplements specifically to help him with potential side effects of the meds he's on (such as liver function support).

Good luck to any parent whose child has any of these disorders or syndromes. Make sure you get into a support group so you know you're not alone and the unfit parent many may judge you to be. It reminds me of losing my dad two years ago. Until you lose a parent you simply can't picture the impact it has on your life. People who don't live with a mentally ill child have no idea of the impact on the household.

My last point (though clearly I can go on) is that I agree that doctors are doing a poor job on the whole of taking the time to really get to know a child. These diagnoses are annecdotally based at this point and patience is critical.

Thank you Frontline for this show.

Michael G.
North Hills, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm D.J.'s grandma and after listening to people bash my daughter and her parenting style, I must speak up. I'm shocked at some of the medical community, especially Dr. Elizabeth Roberts.Dr. Roberts, your comments are the most disturbing to me. You attack my daughters parenting skills, when only one short shot was shown during the show.She has two other beautiful children who respond well to their parents discipline. They listen well, behave and are able to learn from their consequences. D.J. does not have that ability at this time.

You report that D.J. is a perfect example of how poorly the medication solution has worked. I beg to differ with you. D.J. now sleeps at night, he us