Yahoo! Contributor Network
By Sylvie Branch | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Mon, Nov 21, 2011
Foster children are being drugged. That alarmist statement is sadly not an exaggeration. A recent study reports that children in foster care are being prescribed dangerous cocktails of powerful antipsychosis drugs at a much higher rate than those outside the system. The journal Pediatrics published this shocking report Monday and as a former foster parent, I am angered, but not surprised.
The drugs, which include Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa along with other major tranquilizers, were developed for treating schizophrenia but have somehow trickled down to care for nearly any psychiatric symptoms, for adults and children. As it is, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are extremely rare in young children and yet, in an earlier private study, nearly 10 percent of the foster children in a region received a double prescription for antipsychosis meds. Meanwhile, the children on either Medicaid or disability due to a diagnosed medical issue were not prescribed nearly as frequently.
Strong concoctions of these "all-purpose" drugs are being given to a shockingly high percentage of the 400,000 to 500,000 displaced children in the U.S., with your tax dollars I might add. These drugs have known side effects. While it is unclear what long-term effects these drugs will have on children, it is known they can cause rapid weight gain and increase the risk for metabolic problems. The FDA has warned that these drugs increase suicidal thoughts and behavior.
While working within the system as a foster parent, I met several children with unmistakable behavioral issues but would be hard pressed to agree that doctors should be prescribing addictive antipsychotic medication. As Susan dosReis, the lead author in the study and an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy said, "The kids in foster care may come from bad homes, but they do not have the sort of complex medical issues that those in the disabled population do."
There is simply not enough evidence to support this kind of blanket use of drugs in young children. The only reason for drugging the foster children, is to make caring for, or should I say, controlling them, easier on the adults involved. Sad situations and bad decisions by the adults in their life land children in the foster care system, this should not turn into a never-ending pattern of bad decisions by authority figures.
Policy makers and doctors alike have begun to be concerned at the growing rate of psychiatric drug use in the current foster care system, which is good news at least. Acknowledging there is a serious problem is hopefully the first step in making changes. Thankfully, a 16 state consortium has been established to work in collaboration with Rutgers University to effect positive change in the foster care system. I hope this study shines a light into a dark situation and gives a voice to the voiceless stuck in the system.