The Kind Of Histories We Can Do Without

On the defending end of the biological medical model of psychiatry and its apologists a new book has just hit the bookshelves. The following snippet was lifted from a New York Times review, Is Medicating Your Child A Cop Out, on this new book.

“I have found that many people think they understand depression because they have been sad,” a mother of a boy diagnosed with high-functioning autism, sensory-integration issues and obsessive-compulsive behavior tells Judith Warner in the early pages of her new book, “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.”

Struck by 2 things here, I have to register a skin reaction. If this kid has 3 diagnoses, I’m hearing “high-functioning autism, sensory-integration issues and obsessive-compulsive” disorder, maybe somebody is indeed over-diagnosing. Psychiatrists have a way of over doing it when it comes to coming up with weird and inventive co-occurring disorders. If somebody is over-diagnosing, then the possibility is also great that they are over-medicating. Then when Judith Warner has the Age of Medication in her title, I’m flashing back to W. H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety. Is this really the solution? The magic bullet? Some of us have already fast-forwarded to the post-medication mode of The Age of Prevention and The Age of Recovery, and we are managing with the retort, ‘And so can you.”

The point I’m trying to make here is that some of the people diagnosed ‘mentally ill’ as children that I have encountered have never made their way to the post-medication mode of The Age of Prevention and The Age of Recovery. One of the reasons for this is that somebody labeled this person ‘mentally ill’ as a kid, and put that kid on a prescription of pills, and left the kid there. Everybody else is left picking up the tab.

Another review in the online Salon Magazine of the same book, “We’ve Got Issues”: Big Pharma might not be lying, starts by using a cancer analogy, and that’s at least as bad, if not worse.

A hundred years ago it was rarely diagnosed in children. In the intervening timespan the number and type of diagnoses have exploded. Moreover, the number and type of treatments have also exploded. The favored treatment usually involves powerful medications with serious side effects. Big Pharma has made a fortune from these medications and is constantly searching for new variations to patent and sell.

I’m talking about childhood cancer, but I bet you thought I was talking about childhood mental illness. After all, everyone in contemporary society knows that childhood mental illness is over-diagnosed, that drugging children is the preferred method for dealing with the normal problems of childhood, and that normal children are being treated with powerful psychotropic medications simply because they are quirky and authentic.

A hundred years ago children would have been much more likely to get typhoid fever, or tuberculosis say, than they would have been to have gotten cancer. When you throw chemical compounds into the mix, well, you’ve increased a person’s chances of getting cancer. The pharmaceutical products used to treat these mythological illnesses are chemical compounds, and I don’t know of anyone researching the extent to which any of them might be carcinogens. Just wait, what with people in mental health treatment dying 25 years earlier than the rest of the population, maybe we will get around to it eventually, if any of them live long enough.

Given those odds, are you really, really sure you want to have your kid so labeled?