In the 1950s, approximately 7,500 children were believed to have mental disorders that required medication. Today, one in ten children has been diagnosed with an attention disorder and prescribed stimulants for treatment. And this figure doesn’t include kids that have been prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, or sedatives. In total, about 1,000 times more kids are on medication for mental disorders than were 50 years ago**.
Have kids changed that much over the last 50 years? Or are other factors at play?
Much of the social landscape has changed over the last five decades. Dual income homes are common now, and parents are often tired and stretched thin before even coming home to spend time with their kids. The pharmaceutical industry is allowed to advertise, encouraging self-diagnosis and patient-initiated medical requests. And the diagnostic criteria for mental disorders have been altered to include behavior once considered normal. Is it possible that it isn’t kids that have changed, but simply the environment in which today’s kids live?
Certainly, some children have legitimate disorders that are best addressed with medication. But are we drawing the line in the right place, so that we are medicating only those that truly need it?
**Skeptical Inquirer Vol. 32 No. 6, page 32 (not available online yet)