Study reveals an alarming trend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

A recently released study should make parents, educators — anyone who cares about our youngest children — alarmed.

An article in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association reports that use of psychiatric drugs — including Ritalin and anti-depressants — among 2- to 4-year-olds increased 50 percent between 1991 and 1995.

That figure is startling — and probably points to several societal factors, including our society’s increasingly accepting attitude toward the use of psychiatric drugs.

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But using those drugs with children — the youngest children, at that — is frightening.

The study’s findings hint at a more disturbing reality — that our society is relying on these drugs to curb and control early childhood behavior, instead of relying on parents to be parents.

Those worries are echoed by medical professionals, researchers and parents.

And they are warranted.

While there may be times the use of drugs is warranted — even helpful — the decision to use psychiatric drugs in children should by the exception — not the rule.

In a society that seemingly places more emphasis on &uot;image&uot; than &uot;imagination&uot;; on &uot;fitting in&uot; rather than &uot;finding out&uot;; and on quick-fixes rather than investing time and energy in lasting solutions, these behavior-modifying drugs become a crutch — and an easy one to reach.

But they are only that — a crutch.

They can’t replace or rectify a lack of parenting and adult influence — from modeling and stressing proper behavior to helping children learn how to channel their inquisitiveness and seemingly boundless energy.

Nor can those drugs take the place of the time, the concern, the commitment to children that it takes to raise and parent.