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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Taking a child off ritalin is child abuse?


When Chad Taylor noticed his son was apparently experiencing serious side effects from Ritalin prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he decided to take the boy off the medication. Now, he says he may be accused of child abuse. In February, 12-year-old Daniel began displaying some symptoms that his father suspected were related to the use of Ritalin. "He was losing weight, wasn't sleeping, wasn't eating," Taylor told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in New Mexico. "[He] just wasn't Daniel." So Taylor took Daniel off Ritalin, against his doctor's wishes. And though Taylor noticed Daniel was sleeping better and his appetite had returned, his teachers complained about the return of his disruptive behavior. Daniel seemed unable to sit still and was inattentive. His teachers ultimately learned that he was no longer taking Ritalin. School officials reported Daniel's parents to New Mexico's Department of Children, Youth and Families.Then a detective and social worker made a home visit. "The detective told me if I did not medicate my son, I would be arrested for child abuse and neglect," Taylor said.
I think that medication for mental illness is sometimes required. I am concerned though about the frequency of medications for children and wonder how well we understand the long-term effects of this practice. Some children, especially those that are suicidal, obviously need medication and taking them off medication may correctly be judged as child abuse. I don’t think that this should apply to behavioral problems such as ADD though. Parents, rather than the state, should be the final arbitrator of whether a child’s behavior needs medical intervention. Update: Stacy and Random Gemini Weirdness comments


Blogger Aric said...

I agree wholeheartedly that Americans tend to overmedicate their children. The teachers at my son's pre-school wanted him tested for ADHD. Of course, the possibility that he might be displaying the symptoms of a condition known as "five year old boy" was not really considered.

As far as the state determining whether you should medicate your child or not, that's a sticky issue. For things like ADHD, ADD, and other non-fatal, non-life threatening conditions, I would tend towards the "no, the State should butt the f*** out" argument. However, the State does have a right to say "if you don't medicate your child, or otherwise address their disruptive behavior, your child will no longer attend school here."

6/09/2004 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Random Gemini said...

I too agree. And my response is so lengthy, that I am just going to blog it.

6/10/2004 11:44:00 AM  

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