21 May 2015

The Use of Psychotropic Medications in Foster Children

There's one thing I'v been pondering quite a bit over the last few days, and that's the use of behavior altering medications in children in foster care.  These children have all been through some sort of trauma, and sometimes that leads to troublesome (for adults) behavior.  I know quite a few of the foster children I've done respite for are on some sort of medication for ADHD.   Actually 5 out of 10 of the boys we've had are now on meds.  One little boy in particular has been on my mind.  He was almost sedated with his medications.  A little boy should be running around and having fun - that's what little boys do.  I never saw him before meds, but his lack of energy worried me.  Please don't mistake me, I'm not criticizing foster parents who have children on meds.   I think of long term foster parents as guardian angels sent to protect and nurture these children. The vast majority of foster parents that I've met love the children like their own flesh and blood.   However, I think we should all carefully consider the decision to put children on meds.

  I'm just a humble veterinarian so I don't have any training on psychotropic meds in children, but I do know a little about the use of meds in dogs.   I will never send home behavior-altering medications in any pet without first discussing what training needs to be accomplished, and referral to a qualified trainer.  There's no alternative to actually correcting behavior.   Additionally, I won't keep a pet on meds long term without bloodwork to monitor organ function.   Every single medication we give to pets or people has a consequence, has an effect on organs, has an effect on the brain... There is nothing that is 100% safe.  

    So what about these medicines in children?

  • Do we know what effects they have on their brain? organs?
  • Are they more likely to use drugs in the future?
  • Are we PREVENTING them from LEARNING good behavior and instead teaching them to rely on medications?  
  • What about future effects?  Children are developing their thought processes.  Their brain is growing and changing.  Are we hurting their future by using these medications?  
I did a brief search through scholarly articles and research papers, and found only that "more research is needed" to determine long term effects.

For children that are in care who seem a little...energetic.   Wouldn't it be better to send them to play tag outside when they are rambunctious?   If they are in class, maybe some jumping jacks and stretching as a class would help children who are restless sitting there.  It would also help with the obesity epidemic... Little boys aren't supposed to be still.  They should be running, playing, jumping, and saying "HEY!  Look what I can do!"   Also maybe we should cut back on the processed foods and sugars before adding medications.  

Honestly, I don't know what the answer is...but I hate seeing children on medication.   I hope that we can all carefully consider the use of behavior modifying medications, and I hope we can find ways to manage behavior safely with minimal use of medications.

Peace and Love, y'all

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