An Example of Child Abuse

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

Salvation is at hand. The Food and Drug Administration has declared that there is proof that Prozac alleviates depression in children, paving the way for doctors to prescribe it for kids as young as eight years old who are suffering from depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. The FDA approved the drug for kids despite admitting that Prozac's side effects (nausea, tiredness, nervousness, dizziness and difficulty concentrating) were just as likely to happen with children as with adults. They also were not deterred from giving their blessing to Prozac while well aware of a recent study showing that kids taking the drug lost both weight and height over a period of less than six months compared to kids of the same age taking a dummy pill.

How do you like them apples? I don't like them at all. When I read that a drug's side effects may be this bad, I get uneasy. When dealing with children, especially, the medical profession should be focused on the part of their Hippocratic oath that tells them, "First, do no harm." I have to wonder if the approval of drugs like Prozac for young children has more to do with lobbying efforts on the part of pharmaceutical firms than sound medical judgment.

A few years back, it seemed that every other kid was being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Along came the drug manufacturers with their magic pill, ritalin, which was supposed to make everything okay. Today, most doctors agree that ritalin, while it can be helpful to some children, was over-sold and over-prescribed, often doing more harm than good.

Eli Lilly and Company, the producer of Prozac, says it does not intend to market its drug specifically to children. Do you believe that? Even if they do not market to children, putting child-specific information on the bottle of Prozac pills, will make it a lot easier for a doctor to prescribe it for a child. Hey, its FDA approved.

My own bias, if you haven't caught it already, is that we are a drug obsessed society, far too prone to look for solutions to our problems in a bottle. But, you know something, I'm a live and let live kind of guy. If adults want to pop diet pills, anti-depressants and mood altering drugs, that's their life and their choice. But when drug companies start getting vulnerable children hooked on their stuff, I get mad.

If, as the FDA claims, up to 25% of our children suffer depression, we have a major mental health problem on our hands. I submit that a problem of this magnitude is caused by things like kids being left to raise themselves, broken families, lack of a father in the home, a dearth of supportive day care programs and a host of other issues, none of which will be solved by putting our kids on Prozac.

Yes, I know. I know. No one is claiming that Prozac is a cure all for society's shortcomings. It may be just one of a number of things that can help the depressed child deal with his depression. l. All right. I accept that. But I can't help questioning whether we will ever get to the roots of our issues as long as we continue to run to the medicine cabinet every time we have a problem. In this case, in particular, does a "cure" for childhood depression lie in the use of a drug that may cause kids to lose weight and height and exhibit dizziness, nervousness and lack of concentration? What's that old adage about the cure being worse than the disease?