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Contemporary Parenting Questions


Last updated on 12/21/08

Are psychotropic medications dangerous for children?

The prevalence of pediatric mental illness is greater than many people realize. According to a recent report, one in ten children suffers from mental illnesses severe enough to impair development. However, fewer than one in five children get medical treatment for any mental health problems. Kids denied of their necessary medications become alienated from family and peers, flunk out of school, commit crimes, maybe even land in prison, where mental health services simply do not exist. A juvenile detention center reported that over two-thirds of its youthful offenders suffered from psychiatric disorders.

Traditionally, mental health treatments for children relied upon behavioral or talk therapy, often coupled with an attitude of "waiting until they grow out of it." However, treatment options have changed dramatically since the 1970s. For today's children suffering from mental or behavioral disorders, psychotropic medications can work miracles.

Children on psychotropic medications must be carefully monitored, however. Those medications may be miraculous for some, yet they do carry serious side effects. In addition, it is common for medical professionals to prescribe psychotropic medications that are not approved by the FDA for use in children. It is important for the parents to be educated consumers and ask as many questions as they need about the medications.

In the Jewish Community

The use of psychotropic medications in the Jewish community carries an enormous stigma. Some parents feel inclined not to medicate their children out of a fear that their family’s reputation will be ruined. Although some medications can have serious side effects, the results are usually well worth it. It is wrong and cruel to deny a child a medication that they so desperately need.

Paradoxically, overmedicating is also a problem in the Jewish community. Jewish children have unusually long school days in classrooms with sometimes over thirty children. Teachers in these situations often have trouble controlling the classroom and recommend medications for the more rambunctious students. Although some children do have ADHD, it is a diagnosis that should be made by a specialized child psychiatrist, and never by a pediatrician or an adult psychiatrist. Pediatricians and general psychiatrists have limited training in the complex field of child psychiatry and should not be relied upon for matters beyond their expertise.

Use the following links to learn more about psychotropic medications and their uses in children. Evaluate the pros and cons of psychotropic medications and access resources that will help you make your decision.

Frequently Asked Links

What are psychotropic medications?

How can psychotropic medications help children?

What are some of the different types of psychotropic medications and which ones are approved for use in children?

What are some of the side effects of psychotropic medications?

What are some of the pros and cons for using antidepressants for children?

Are psychotropic medications overprescribed for children?

Can a child recover from depression without taking antidepressants?

Are ADHD medications safe?

Is medication effective for kids with ADHD?

By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

What are some of the dangers of Ritalin and what are its alternatives?

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ADHD cannot be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Yet researchers found that many of the estimated 2.4 million kids with ADHD who need help are not getting it.

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Mental Health Resources for the Jewish Community

Compiled by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.

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