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Can Psychotropic Medication Really Cure the Behavior of Children?

January 21, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Views: 91

Many parents are meant to believe that psychotropic medication for children such as anti depressants, antipsychotic, and medication for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder can ultimately cure children of misbehavior. However, these medications cannot cure any one of misbehavior or symptoms related to a psychological illness. The key term here is 'cure'. Cure infers a permanent resolution to a problem. 

Psychotropic medication is best used on individuals who suffer from psychological disorders related to brain chemical imbalances discovered through blood tests. 

The thing to remember about these medications is that they are simply mood inhibitors or stabilizers. The reason why they cannot cure individuals of psychological problems is because medication does not have the ability to influence or change the way people think or problem solve. Individuals who have been diagnosed with a psychological illness can effectively overcome symptoms with psychotherapy, a process that teaches individuals how to problem solve by cognitive retraining. Oftentimes medication in conjunction with psychotherapy can be very effective in terms of resolving psychological illnesses and symptoms. However, it is very important that the individual not rely exclusively on psychotropic medication to resolve psychological problems or else he or she will become dependent on the medication.

Children who are prescribed medication for depression or emotional disorders can develop a negative conditioned response to their medication or diagnosis giving them a reason to misbehave. For instance, if they fail to take their medication that day, they might feel as if they now have the license to misbehave.  Parents who constantly refer to their children's medication instead of attending to their misbehavior, i.e. 'You didn't take your medication today, did you?' and 'Maybe it is time to increase your dosage', makes children believe that they have no control over their behavior. Often times, just being diagnosed with a known behavior disorder such as ADHD might make children think that since they have no control over their own behavior, they have no choice but to misbehave.  In addition, often many times parents refuse to discipline their children for misbehavior in fear that they are punishing their children for behavior that is out of their control.

If your child believes that punching others is an effective method of resolving conflicts, medication will not change or alter this thought process. Your child will continue to maintain this belief regardless of whether he or she has been prescribed psychotropic medication.

Regardless of whether your child has been prescribed any of these medications, it is extremely important for him or her to learn appropriate coping skills to effectively cope with issues of depression, anxiety, and anger. This medication will not teach your child these coping skills. However, psychotropic medication can alter or stabilize your child's mood so that he or she is emotionally prepared, capable, and willing to learn these coping skills. Please keep in mind that it is important for you to emphasize to your child the need for him or her to learn alternative behavior instead of relying on the medication to do all the work. 

This is why disciplining children for misbehavior is so important. Discipline teaches children that they need to own or take responsibility for their own actions and misbehavior regardless of circumstances or events. After all, there is never a good reason to misbehave.

Recent research shows that children in the United States are prescribed more antipsychotic medication than children from other countries. This perhaps indicates that we in the United States rely more on medication than learning new ways to behave and think. In addition, recent research shows that the majority of children who have been prescribed anti depressant medication are not receiving psychotherapy services. Reportedly, many of the children who committed school shootings were prescribed anti depressant medication but were not receiving psychotherapy services. Hence the need to teach children appropriate coping skills without relying on medication.

Psychotropic medication might remedy symptoms in the short term. However, psychotherapy (teaching children coping skills) remedies symptoms in the long term. Disciplining children and cognitive retraining can be a tedious and lengthy process which might make medication more appealing, but consider the long-term ramifications of such a decision as the consequence can be devastating.

When evaluating your child for psychotropic medication, it is best to ask your family physician or your child's pediatrician for a psychiatric referral to obtain a psychological evaluation. Psychiatrists, because of their extended education in psychology, are better prepared and equipped to diagnose and treat psychological disorders.

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About the Author

Mark Lakewood, CEO, a distinguished author, speaker, and parenting expert with over 20 years of clinical experience as a mental health therapist, graduated with a Masters degree in Social Work. He was employed at medical/psychiatric hospitals and clinics, and a family preservation agency. Afterwards, he opened his own private practice providing mental health therapy services to children, adolescences, and adults. Mr. Lakewood developed the Sudden Compliance Program, Presently, Mr. Lakewood develops and facilitates seminars that focus on family and school-related issues.

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