Last month Caroline Marie’s 12-year-old daughter started taking Zoloft. Despite an improvement in her daughter’s moods, she’s still asking the question: Is it right to pour chemicals with known side effects into a child’s system to change their behaviour?
13 March 2011
When it comes to psychotropic drugs, I have major concerns, particulary around dependency to drugs. It's a billion-dollar industry. This industry controls how doctoral students are taught in med schools. It controls the research of the effects of their own products. It bombards doctors with samples, kickbacks, marketing.
Not to say that I myself never benefitted from the use of these drugs, but still I have concerns.
Children using psychotropic drugs? My concerns quadruple. Nobody knows how they interact with the changing hormone levels of adolescence. There are "black box warnings" about children committing suicide. And how does saying, "Here, take this pill. Your mood will lift" influence later urges to try street drugs?
Last month, my 12-year-old starting taking Zoloft. I have resisted this route for years. My daughter has PTSD, anxiety and attachment issues. But she does great in school, other kids seem to really like her, and she's very active in sports. Her biggest problem is that she drives me mad – so maybe I should be the one taking the pill, right? I resisted med suggestions by her therapist for years.
Then last November, tragedy re-entered my daughter's world and our home life became unbearable. For me.
A crisis therapist joined the team of experts helping us, and this therapist quickly started nudging me down the road to medication. "I'll just make the appointment for now since there is a three-month wait, but you can always change your mind and cancel later."
"Her appointment was moved up to next week, but you can always tell the doctor you're not comfortable medicating her."
"Just try the medication for a month, and if you don't like how it affects her, you can always stop."
So now my daughter is taking Zoloft.
Even though the doctor said absolutely nothing to ease my concerns, I submitted and I have no idea why. Issues with male authority figures? Weakness? Bad mothering? Selfishness? The Life Blood has been sucked out of me and now I have become nothing but a walking zombie with no personal convictions?
Not only did the doctor not say anything to ease my concerns , but he said that thing people say about psychotropic drugs that really pisses me off: "Well if your daughter was diabetic, you would make sure she was given insulin, wouldn't you? Mental illness is a disease too, blah blah blah."
What I thought in response was:
No! Diabetes is a measurable problem, asshole! There is a test to measure sugar levels! Depression and anxiety are subjective. There is no test to measure deficiencies in my daughter's blood. There is merely me saying that she is getting on my nerves, and now we're going to try putting various drugs into her system until we find one that makes her more pleasant to be around!
What I said was:
"Sure. Let's try it for a month."
Throughout the doctor's visit my daughter was polite and responsive. The moment we got into the car afterwards she pitched a gigantic fit. Shrieking, screaming, crying, "I'm not taking anything! It will change me! I don't want to change!" She threatened to jump out of the car and run away. She was completely hysterical – gasping for breath between shrieks and sobs – and I thought, "Hmm. Perhaps she could use a little help managing her emotions."
Ironically, her fit about taking the drugs was exactly what convinced me that she in fact needed them. Am I a terrible person or what?
Now we are at the one-month mark and my daughter is a completely different kid. She has become a typical 12-year-old. She acts silly and giggles. She spends time with friends outside of school without my having to cajole her to do so. She tells stupid jokes. When I say something displeasing to her, she merely stomps away to her room.
So. Is this right?
Making my child just like everyone else? Pouring chemicals into her system that may or may not be interacting with her hormones just as her breasts are starting to develop? Chemicals with known sexual side effects at the exact age when she is starting to have sexual feelings?
Making her silly and happy when deep inside her lurks unfathomable rage and grief?
I have no idea.
Caroline Marie adopted her beautiful 12-year-old daughter five years ago. This article is from her blog which contains adoptive parenting woes, fairy tales and the meaning of (mid)life. She is based in the US.