Drugging schoolchildren as social control?
Following my keynote address at the Association of Educational Psychologists’ Annual Course in November 2010 and my seminars at the BPS Division of Educational Psychology (DECP) conference in January, there has been a lot of media interest in my call for a national review of psychotropic drugs used to control behaviours that are sometimes within the normal range. Also, I have highlighted the concern about the imminent arrival of DSM-5 from the US, with it’s more inclusive spectral definitions of mental health, such as ‘sub-clinical, normal variation ASC, ADHD, social anxiety [shyness], and depression [sadness]’. Dr Tim Kendall (representing the Royal College of Psychiatrists and NICE) agreed with my level of concern on a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme on 11 February, stating that the revised DSM-5 should not be readily adopted by psychiatrists, paediatricians and psychologists alike in the UK.
I was delighted when the chairs of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) and DECP both lent their support my call for a national review of this strategy in their statement of 9 February.
Peter Kinderman, chair of DCP stated in this press release, which was published in the March issue of The Psychologist: ‘Clearly, it is important to understand children’s behavioural and psychological problems fully, and to invest in proper, expert, therapeutic approaches. We would be very concerned if children were being prescribed medication as a quick fix rather than accessing the full assessments and psychological therapies which take may longer and cost more, but ultimately are likely to be better value in the long run.’
I am naturally delighted with the support for a national review about the safeguarding issues involved in overmedicating school children.
We must act quickly prior to the release of DSM-5 produced by the American Psychiatric Association. A lot of UK practitioners may use this schedule unless there is resistance from the professional bodies such as the BPS and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in this country.
Within the BPS there is close work with psychiatrists to ensure better mental health across the board. If there is evidence of inappropriate use of drugs or medication then we’re sure that our psychiatry colleagues would be equally concerned.
The time is right to extend the debate amongst practitioners of all disciplines before it is too late and we adopt by default the shocking American practice of drugging 12 per cent of their whole school population for attention difficulties alone, and then high percentages for other conditions. Drug companies would ideally like to medicate 20+ per cent of all children who they claim have one mental health diagnosis or another. The eminent psychologist Dorothy Rowe concludes in the foreword of the new edition of Making Us Crazy – DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders (2010) by Herb Kutchins et al. that it is reasonable to conclude that this practice is a systemic form of social control.
I urge psychologists, medical practitioners and teacher colleagues to contemplate their own response to this crucial societal issue.