Professor Linda Raasch
Abnormal Psychology 2200 01-02
16 April 2014
The Medicated Child The Medicated Child was produced by M. Frederick for Frontline and aired on PBS on January 8th, 2008. This film can only be described as a fundamental expose into the world of grossly over-prescribed medications given to potentially misdiagnosed children. Frontline gives us front row tickets into childhood mood disorders fed by unsafe antipsychotic drugs that lack testing and regulation. The story follows several suffering children and the heartbreaking journeys each of their families face as they rely on pills, pills, and more pills to attempt to coax some sort of normal existence out of their kids. Normal takes on a whole other level for children with childhood bipolar, a disease not previously diagnosed or acknowledged in children. What stands out the most in this film is not just the shocking increase in bipolar disorder diagnosis but rather the “why” and “how” it came to be. The documentary was both alarming and scary. I came away with more questions than I was able to answer and as a parent, I became fearful.
The documentary states that over 1,000,000 children are diagnosed with bipolar disorder (Frederick). Dr. Joseph Biederman, the world renowned child psychiatrist and Author of Running on Ritalin confirms the rarity of this diagnosis in children but yet claims it is on the rise. As we find out later, he may be to blame. In, Exploring Psychology, David G. Meyers confirms this finding when he states “between 1994 and 2003, bipolar diagnoses in under-20 people showed an astonishing 40-fold increase – from an estimated 20,000 to 800,000” (Myers pg. 521). Furthermore, in Abnormal Psychology, Ronald J. Comer confirms the exact same fact but goes on to challenge this when he says that “most theorists believe that these numbers reflect an increase in the prevalence of bipolar disorder among children but, rather, a new diagnostic trend” (Comers, pg 521.). He continues to say that “the label has become a clinical “catchall” that is being applied to almost every explosive, aggressive child. In fact, symptoms of rage and aggression, along with depression, dominate the clinical picture of most children who receive a bipolar diagnosis” (Cromer, pg. 447). So perhaps it is not bipolar disorder? Why is this happening? Frontline points the finger at Dr. Joseph Biederman whom has made very public statements proclaiming most children with ADHD probably have bipolar disorder (Frederick). What followed that was a diagnosis rate increase of 4000% (Frederick). How is society taking one persons word without additional testing or research? Is research being done to prove this? Are we correctly placing blame here? I looked further into this claim because I found it hard to believe that one man can be so influential to the medical community that he could single handedly swing an entire diagnosis into another direction. With further research I found out he did just that, and lined his pockets at the expense of the health and safety of children all over the country. This was by far the most shocking revelation.
Gardiner Harris wrote an article in the New York Times titled Research Center Tied to Drug Companies. The article goes on to explain the Congressional investigation that revealed in June, that, Dr. Joseph Beiderman failed to report earnings he received from drug companies for pushing prescriptions of powerful and expensive antipsychotic drugs to children and their families (Gardiner). In a court filing made public, Dr. Biederman put pressure on the Massachusetts General Hospital to create a research center with a goal to “move forward with the commercial goals of J&J” (Harris), also known as Johnson and Johnson. Isn’t it a strange co-incidence that Johnson and Johnson produces and sells these powerful medications? I was disgusted that this was even legal. The more I read the article and researched it, the more my heart broke for