Archives for December, 2012
Tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary aren't just agonizing and heart-wrenching for millions of people - they're frustrating. We keep asking ourselves "how?" and "why?" And, with authorities still trying to piece together evidence, the public has to make do with limited - and often incorrect - information. First came reports that the shooter, Adam Lanza, might have Asperger's. To my knowledge, no authoritative source has yet confirmed Lanza had a formal diagnosis of that or any other emotional, behavioral or developmental condition. But that lack of evidence - as well as expert consensus that Asperger's was extremely unlike to have triggered a shooting rampage - didn't stop an army of commentators from weighing in. Now, comes the speculation about whether Lanza might have a history of taking mood or behavior-altering medication. Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not blaming journalists, bloggers, pundits, Twitter users, and the general public from wondering if Lanza might be taking psychiatric meds. In fact, it's one of the first questions that came to my mind - even before I heard the reports of his possible Asperger's.
I've argued before that declaring American kids and teens to be "overmedicated" is something of a cop-out. How can people say what constitutes overmedication when they can't - or won't - specify what would constitute an acceptable number or percentage of kids taking psychiatric meds? Still, I do care about the numbers, because they can give us clues as to which kids and how many are getting appropriate treatment for emotional and behavioral problems. A recent and widely publicized study by researchers from The National Institute of Mental Health provides data on some -but not all - key measurements of youth medication use. Its main finding: Just one in seven teens with a diagnosable psychiatric conditions have recently taken medications to treat it.