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Youth, Sex and (Psych) Drugs

If some particularly controlling parents knew psychiatric medications were likely to have certain side effects, might they purposely inflict such treatment on their children as a way of controlling some of their offspring’s more unruly tendencies? Like, say, their kids’ rampant youthful sexuality?

That was the dystopian scenario some readers posed in response to my last blog post about psychiatric medications and sexual side effects.

I have to admit, it struck me as perhaps a little far-fetched that parents would put their children on medications solely for the side effects.

But, still, I wondered: If given a choice between two similar drugs, one with such side effects and one without, might a nervous parent not gravitate toward the medication that would quell their fears about burgeoning teenage sexuality?

I couldn’t say I’d heard of any such thing happening, certainly not from the young people I’d interviewed for my recent book about growing up on psychiatric meds, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up.

But then again, what parent is going to admit – especially to their son or daughter – that they conspired with their child’s doctor to clamp down on libido, arousal and various other elements of their kid’s sex life?

Readers had plenty of other concerns in response to my post.

Even if parents weren’t explicitly meddling in their children’s sex lives, readers worried that drugs that curb or interfere with normal sexual development would leave young people unused to controlling their sexuality in a healthy manner if and when they stopped taking the medications. Released from these strictures, readers worried, the young people would feel stifled, run wild, or take some other, unpredictable path.

And more than one reader made the astute point that young people who chafe at the sexual side effects of medications simply won’t take them.

This, I might add, is likely to undermine the relationship the young person has with his or her parent or doctor vis-a-vis medication, since the young person is unlikely to admit he or she has stopped taking the drugs because of the sexual side effects.

As some researchers I quoted in Dosed put it, “most teens would rather become non-compliant [taking the drugs] than start a discussion about the effect of the medication on their sexual experience.”

Um, yes. That would be about right. As a teenager, my idea of absolute mortification would have been to initiate a conversation about sexual satisfaction with a doctor, let alone one I was seeing for psychological problems. Far better, in most kids’ minds, to quit the drugs and keep mum about it.

In my case, doctors reinforced the idea that the topic of medications’ sexual side effects was only fit to broach with adults by not bringing up the subject until I was in at least my mid-20s and in a committed romantic relationship.

But is that fair? Was my sexual satisfaction somehow more valid then, as a 20-something in a steady relationship than it was five, eight years or ten earlier, as a college kid still dating or hooking up in more casual romantic and sexual encounters? I think many teenagers and even 20-somethings would say it was not.

Do you have further thoughts, concerns, personal stories on this topic of sexual side effects and medications? Please feel free to share.

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Youth, Sex and (Psych) Drugs

Kaitlin Bell Barnett

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APA Reference
Bell Barnett, K. (2012). Youth, Sex and (Psych) Drugs. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Apr 2012
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