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Childhood

Can Meds Transform Mental Illness Into Mental Health?

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I've been thinking a lot about the terms "mental health" and "mental illness" ever since reading a recent post post on the topic by blogger Natasha Tracy.

Natasha contends that using the politically-correct, cheerier-sounding term "mental health" trivializes psychiatric disorders and ends up shortchanging those who suffer from mental illness. That got me thinking again about a question I've often pondered:...
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Abuse and diversion

Keeping Medications Secret – A Way to Curb Abuse?

A recent article in USA Today about the challenges of dealing with ADHD at college suggested students keep their conditions - and their prescriptions - secret from their peers.

The reason? Abuse of stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin is rampant on college campuses, where the medications are used as "study drugs" and also to provide a boost of energy during long nights of drinking and partying.

As a result, students with such...
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Antidepressants

Waiting Until You’re “Old Enough” for Antidepressants

What's it like to suffer from severe depression for as long as you can remember - and to be too scared to ask for help until age 18?

Today I’m featuring the story of Allie, a 21-year-old college senior in Wisconsin who was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Allie kept her unhappiness a secret and didn't begin taking medication when she was old enough to ask for it without her parents finding out.

Allie's...
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ADHD drugs

A Hierarchy of Medications?

People who take psychiatric medications long-term are no strangers to stigma, or the threat of it. We perennially face, for example, the question of whether it's worth risking others' judgment and the potential negative repercussions of disclosing our conditions -- and the fact that we take medication for them.

But you can commit to taking medications long-term and still perpetuate or further the stigma associated with meds. And I don't just mean that...
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ADHD drugs

Medicating Class Cut-Ups But Overlooking the Rest

This weekend a mother published a New York Times column about how her son came to be diagnosed with ADHD and became a member of the ballooning "Ritalin Generation."

"Just a little medication," the teacher told the boy's mother, "could really turn things around" for the boy, who was having trouble focusing on class worksheets and lining up quietly for transitions between classes.

When the mother firmly responded that she and her husband weren't...
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ADHD drugs

The Hidden Costs of Medication

Psychiatric medications have a lot of potential hidden costs.

We don't know, for example, how taking them from a young age affects long-term brain and psychological development in kids. They have myriad of side effects, some serious, like diabetes, high cholesterol, neurological impairment and birth defects when taken in pregnancy. They carry stigma, both from others and self-imposed.

But I'm not talking metaphorically about costs here. I'm talking straight-up financial outlays. Taking psychiatric...
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Abuse and diversion

Taking Meds, Being Judged

With all the attention on the misuse of psychiatric drugs, I think it's worth taking a look at how the increased scrutiny affects people who have a diagnosis and a legitimate prescription.

I don't mean to suggest that just because someone has been diagnosed and a doctor has seen fit to prescribe her medication that she necessarily needs the meds - or even that she "should" be on them....
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Antidepressants

How Psych Drug Studies Shortchange Kids

For years, researchers and health policy experts have been charging that psychiatric medications aren't adequately tested in children - and a new study gives some powerful ammunition to that critique.

The study, from Pediatrics, looked at clinical drug trials between 2006 and 2011, involving five conditions that cause the greatest "disease burden" for children, as measured by a rating that counts the total years of healthy life lost to disability.

In high-income countries like...
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Antidepressants

Could Meds Make It Harder To Take the Heat?

New York, like much of the country, was mired in a massive heat wave for much of this week. Everyone was complaining that they could hardly stand to go outside - the heat index was 100 degrees. Once high temperatures set in, I began feeling particularly faint and achy, like I was getting sick.
At first, I figured I was about to get a migraine, since I often...
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