Over the last two decades, we have seen a dramatic spike in the numbers of young people taking psychiatric medication. As new drugs have come on the market and diagnoses have proliferated, prescriptions have increased many times over. The issue has sparked heated debates, with most arguments breaking down into predictable pro-med advocacy or anti-med jeremiads. Yet, we're heard little from the "medicated kids" themselves.
The Medicated Generation that Kaitlin Barnett speaks of is my generation of kids that were raised in what was considered the medicinal age. When breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals and neuroscience brought on the spike of anti-depressants. Some called it the Prozac Era and I grew up with many of the people who walking into the line of medicated assistance.
As a tween/teen I grew up extremely depressed, in many ways I resembled the people she found in her stories. It was quite a disastrous and awful part of my life that I am thankful that after all of these years I no longer have much recollection of and actually trying to look back is like looking into a black hole. It simply doesn't exist. I wouldn't say I grew out of it more than I was someone who figured out my issues early on, recognized them for what they were and then kept myself in check. I accepted them as a part of myself and then eventually I became a part of them as well. I bring this up only to explain that I had great empathy towards this story. There is a large part of it, and I assume many people, that brings in the wonder of whether the medication generation are themselves or what their medications shifted them into being.
Some interesting points I found in this book were:
- The discussions regarding the "chemical imbalance" paradigm.
- Children's self-discovery or teenage identity development in differing modes of treatment.
- The relationship between anti-depressant treatment and the course of bi-polar disorder.
- The relationship between ADHD and bi-polar disorder.
- The discussion of long-term effects of drugs on sexual functioning into adulthood.
- The psychological impact of medications on children growing into adulthood.
Unlike most books regarding this topic, DOSED comes straight from the heart of the Medicated Generation. As Kaitlin Barnett takes us into her teen years when she was diagnosed with depression and many others like her with varying degrees of psychological and physical issues; from as young as 5 years old. This book reads as though they were of a singular voice, going through their past to their present seeking answers. While most of us in our adult years can somehow grasp an idea of who we are and what got us to this place of understanding ourselves, in many ways the Medicated Generation are still seeking themselves - lost in a paradox of wondering whether they are a manifestation of their medications or rather just a person with a disability.
The book focuses on five case studies: Claire-whose story starts at age eleven -suffered from symptoms of depression and insomnia and had a family history of mental illness; Elizabeth-who is introduced at age twelve-is the child of a protracted divorce who is left without much supervision of her medication for depression and ADHD; Paul-whose story starts at age five-is caught up in the foster care system and an abundance of instability in his home life leads to him being heavily medicated for anger and hyperactivity issues; Caleb-whom the book introduces at age twelve-is an only child who was the victim of severe bullying at school which leads to post traumatic stress disorder and the later diagnosis of bipolar disorder; and Alex-introduced at age eighteen-who was emotionally abused by a step-parent and suffered a relapse of the OCD and depression that he had been diagnosed with as a child.
I can understand this questioning from an outward perspective because I wonder this daily in regards to my family. After I read this book I was left more puzzled due to personal situations. My Father, many years ago, had attempted suicide and after an extended hospital stay he was placed on Lithium. For the first time in my entire life I saw him really smile, he took control of his life and seemed so ... alive. However, the side-effects caused him an inability to write due to shaky hands, he couldn't even sign checks, and shortly after he took himself off. He went back to the Father I had always known, back to his inner darkness he was comfortable with. He had told me he was afraid that the drug would make him someone he wasn't, even though it made him 'better'.
In another turn, my sister has an 11 year old that was put on various medications for the past five to seven years. He was diagnosed at first with ADHD, which them became a huge line of a disorders as they tried to figure out what was wrong with medication rather than take the time for psychology. This obviously wasn't my sisters fault, as the book explains in depth what happened to psychology for children after the pharmaceutical boom. He got worse the more medications he was placed on and the side effects actually stopped him from growing. It was so bad that she fought and finally weened him off of everything and now is faced with dealing with a child that has issues that weren't even apparent before - such as depression. Were they latent issues that would have been diagnosed regardless? Or was he experiencing issues caused by the change in neurosis from the medications? Did he actually ever have the original disorder prior to taking medication? Or was he just an overactive child that needed some mental stability in the form of an actual psychologist instead of a pill? No one will ever know.
DOSED: The Medication Generation Grows Up goes into depth about the change from actually seeking assistance, to being medicated by doctors who are not trained in those areas; how things have changed in the past 50+ years, how they evolved during the rise of pharmaceuticals and amazingly offers all this valuable information without being biased in the medication debate. An extraordinary and engrossing first book by an author you will come to highly respect.
This is a book you share and you share and you share again...
Connect: You can connect with Kaitlin Bell Barnett on her Facebook Page and/or @kbellbarnett on Twitter.
Purchase: You can purchase DOSED: The Medication Generation Grows Up on Amazon for $17.13.