One in four insured children, and nearly 30 percent of adolescents, took at least one prescription medication to treat a chronic condition in 2009.
"Over the past nine years, the most substantial increases in the medicating of children were seen in drugs for conditions not typically associated with them, such as for type 2 diabetes and antipsychotics ... Some long-standing childhood maladies also saw large increases, such as asthma."
Few trends highlight the fatal flaws in the U.S. medical system more than our ruthless drugging of children. Not only are kids coming down with chronic diseases once only seen in adults (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression), but they are being medicated with strong, toxic drugs rather than being taught how to get healthy, naturally.
In a couple of decades, these kids will find out that the medications they've been given have done nothing to heal their bodies, and if no changes are made they may suffer an early death as a result.
One in Four Kids Take Drugs for Chronic Health Conditions
This was the finding by Medco Health Solutions' latest drug trend study. Among adolescents aged 10 to 19, the figure jumps to 30 percent. These staggering figures only take into account insured U.S. children and adolescents, so the true numbers could be even higher.
Children and adolescents should be, for the most part, at their health peak. Instead, this age group made up the leading growth category for the pharmaceutical industry last year, with increases nearly four times higher than those seen in the rest of the population.
What is going on here?
Unhealthy Lifestyles are Making Kids Sick
Some of the largest jumps in prescriptions for kids were for drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heartburn, and acid refulx.
Since 2001, the use of heartburn and acid reflux medications among adolescents has jumped 147 percent, while girls aged 10 to 19 taking medications for type 2 diabetes has jumped close to 200 percent in the last nine years.
Every one of these "chronic diseases" is virtually always the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, namely poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.
What is distressing is that if a child comes into a physician's office with high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or heartburn, they will likely leave with a drug prescription in hand.
Sadly, this is now expected.
From a very young age, sometimes even before they leave the hospital at birth, kids are given medicine. Antibiotics for colds and ear infections (even though they often don't work for this purpose), pills for indigestion, fever, headaches, the flu, and in some cases even for simply acting out.
Kids are taught that in order to "feel better" they need to go to the doctor and get medicine. Or they need to go to the corner drugstore and get some type of liquid gel-cap to "cure" them. To make matters worse, kids are exposed to TV commercials, some with animated characters and talking animals, pedaling drugs to their parents and sometimes directly to teens.
This is an atrocity, as what virtually everyone, kids and adults included, needs to treat these types of ailments is a prescription for a healthier lifestyle.
Antipsychotics for Kids Common
Drugs for what used to be considered "adult" diseases are not the only ones showing up in kids' tiny hands. Antipsychotics, potent drugs that are known for their serious side effects, are also increasingly being given to kids to treat depression, anxiety and other similar conditions.
Since 2001, the use of antipsychotics among kids has doubled (and more than doubled for girls). In 2007 alone, half a million children and teenagers were given at least one prescription for an antipsychotic, including 20,500 under the age of 6. Side effects of these drugs are often worse than the conditions for which they're prescribed.
Take Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and biopolar disorder in adults, and irritability associated with autistic disorder in children. In many cases, the drug is handed out to children with attention deficit problems, as well. Side effects include:
- Increased appetite
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Vomiting, coughing, fever
- Tremors, muscle stiffness, and anxiety
- Restlessness, dizziness, and indigestion
- Urinary incontinence
Those are just the "minor" side effects. More serious effects include:
- Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, which can be fatal
- Tardive Dyskinesia, serious and sometimes permanent muscle tics
- Hormone disruption (including breasts producing milk and breast development in males)
- High blood sugar and diabetes
- Muscle disturbances (restlessness, tremors, muscle stiffness)
Many antipsychotics also cause weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and other related conditions, rounding out a vicious cycle.
Hooking Kids on Drugs Early on is a Dangerous Trend
American kids are the most medicated in the world. Every year more than 200 million prescriptions are written for children and teenagers in the United States, according to California's Board of Pharmacy. That works out to more than three prescriptions per child, every year!
Meanwhile, in any two-week period in the United States, 13 million children take a prescription medication. Of them, over 6 million are taking them for chronic diseases.
This is a double-edged sword, as not only are physicians increasingly prescribing drugs to kids, but increasing numbers of kids are getting sick. The current generation is the first one in recorded history in which their lifespan will actually be shorter than their parents. This is primarily due to chronic degenerative diseases that result from insulin- and leptin-resistance.
As a parent, it's important for you to be aware that many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. The National Institutes of Health even states that four of the six leading causes of death in the U.S. are linked to unhealthy diets.
So giving your child a prescription drug for a lifestyle-related disease is not going to solve the problem. It is not going to help your child and instead may harm them with side effects.
You need to be a role model in this regard, teaching your children the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle instead of relying on medications to "fix" them.
Tips for Keeping Your Child Drug-Free and Healthy
It's quite common for parents -- especially first-time parents -- to rush their children to a physician for every minor ailment. It's important to remember that in the first year or two of life, your child's immune system is still being formed, and their experiences during this time can often predict whether or not they will have life-long health problems.
Scientific studies continually support the wisdom of limiting exposures to "foreign" substances for children, including synthetic chemicals -- which includes drugs.
As often as drugs are administered to infants and young children, it's easy to forget that 75 percent of all prescription drugs do NOT have labeling instructions for children, leaving their use in children up to your physician's discretion.
Along with immune system development, your child's nervous system continues to develop well into their seventh year of life. With the recent epidemic increase in the rates of autism, attention deficit, and hyperactivity disorders, it would seem prudent to nurture and protect your child's health in every way possible.
It's also important to remember that your child's immune system and overall health is most influenced by diet, not by drugs or supplements. Many if not most of the chronic diseases kids are now facing can be prevented with proper food choices, along with the commonsense strategies that follow:
- Breastfeed – Feeding your child breast milk and avoiding baby formulas (especially soy formulas, which can be deadly) is perhaps one of the best things you can do to nurture your child's inherent immune system, setting the stage for optimal health.
- Get educated on vaccinations – Before you go along with the standard protocol, do your homework on childhood vaccinations, and opt out of any vaccination where the risks are greater than the potential benefit.
- Proper diet – So many people, including health professionals, do not pay enough attention to diet. I recommend determining your child's nutritional type and following my nutrition plan from an early age to avoid many common ailments and chronic diseases later on. You should also be sure your child is not consuming too much fructose from consuming soda, candy or other processed foods.
Fructose is now the #1 source of calories in the U.S. and is highly destructive to virtually every body system within your child. So eliminate ALL sodas, and be VERY cautious about drinking fruit juices, as they are also high in fructose. It's far better to eat whole unprocessed fruits instead.
- Exercise -- Too much sedentary time is actually one of the forces driving the child obesity epidemic. About 30 percent of U.S. children are now overweight, and, childhood diabetes has increased 10-fold in the last 20 years.
If your child is in this group, it is imperative that you limit their TV, computer and video game time, and replace them with a regular exercise program. Overweight and obese children will need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and may benefit from closer to 60 minutes.Even if your child is not overweight, you should encourage him or her to take part in physically engaging activities throughout the summer, after school days, and on the weekends.
- Treat fevers properly -- A fever is actually a good thing and can improve your child's immune system, making them much healthier in the long run. High fevers can be especially beneficial as they are far better than any immunization at building an authentic, life-long immune response.
When you suppress these fevers with Tylenol or another medication, you can cause far more harm than good. (I advise avoiding most all of the anti-fever medications unless your child is absolutely miserable or the fever is over 104 degrees F.) A tepid bath can be a soothing and effective alternative.
- Avoid antibiotics – Many common infections -- such as colds and the flu -- for example, are still treated with antibiotics even though it's common knowledge that antibiotics CANNOT treat those kinds of infections! This kind of antibiotic abuse will only be a detriment to your child's health in the long run.
- Healthy outlets for stress – Kids can be under a lot of stress to keep their grades up and forge new relationships with their peers. Make sure that your kids know how to release their sadness, stress, or other negative emotions, and encourage them to engage in relaxing activities if you know they've had a stressful day.
These lifestyle strategies will help prime your child for a lifetime of optimal health.
In the event your child is offered a prescription drug, I would strongly encourage you to do the research before giving your child any medication, and only do so if there is truly no other option (you may need to seek out the opinion of a physician who is knowledgeable about natural medicine).