Antipsychotics pose an interesting dilemma when discussing the negative aspects of prescription drugs. There is a significant and legitimate fear surrounding the discussion of their negative effects as some people who undeniably need them have no choice but to take them whether they are harmful or not.
They are simply the best we have to fight psychosis and major mood disturbances. If the best we have is not good enough, well, it seems the answer is “shucks.”
However, many people taking Antipsychotics do not have a psychotic disorder and some are not even diagnosed with a mental disorder at all.
Though exact numbers seem to vary between studies, only roughly a third of people with Antipsychotic prescriptions have a condition for which the FDA has approved their use. Approved conditions for treatment with Antipsychotics include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, extreme depression and other serious mental illnesses.
The clear majority of people being prescribed Antipsychotics are taking them for conditions that are considered “off-label,” meaning not an FDA approved condition for treatment with these powerful drugs. The most common disorder treated with Antipsychotics is ADHD, followed by insomnia.
Children as young as 5 have been treated with Antipsychotics. Most people treated with Antipsychotics to treat ADHD are young children, teens and older kids. These are still, however, kids.
According to associate professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, David Rubin, M.D., “there’s a societal trend to look for the quick fix, the magic bullet that will correct disruptive behaviors. But for those looking for a quick solution to escalating behaviors at home, the hard truth is there is unlikely to be a quick fix.”
They are being handed out like ticktacks, with little or no discussion or explanation of the sincere dangers associated with them. Parents are handed these drugs to treat children who are simply displaying annoying behavior that defines the pains of growing up. The argument has been made against prescription Amphetamines as well.
An even greater concern is the combination of prescription Amphetamines, such as Ritalin, Adderall or Vyvanse, with Antipsychotics. This combination of prescription drugs is commonly used despite the lack of any good idea of what they are actually doing to the brain. Studies into the effects of concurrent use of these two types of prescription medications only call for more studies but are strongly cautioned against. However, psychiatrists seem to have overlooked all warnings as Antipsychotic and Amphetamine prescriptions are still increasing amongst children and teens in the United States.
Despite the health consequences, which are not minor incidences, the biggest problem may just be in the practice of turning to pharmaceuticals for behavioral problems. In fact, some argue that these are less behavioral problems as normal development for children. We were designed to move around all day, not sit and listen. The problem seems to be that we are asking children to behavior unnaturally and when they refuse to act as instructed, we as a society hand them a pill, or two.
So, when people of a drugged generation start showing up addiction treatment centers for poly-substance abuse, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Evidence does not indicate that Antipsychotics are addictive. However, the core belief that all problems are solved by taking drugs is problematic.
Of the people who present in addiction treatment centers testifying to having abused Antipsychotics, few to none solely abused them. One study found that 84% of Antipsychotic abuse consisted of combining them with Alcohol, Opioids, Cocaine, Methamphetamine and other illegal substances. By themselves, Antipsychotics are not typically abused. If they are, they are abused without the high associated with other drugs.
Antipsychotics do not produce the euphoria associated with other drugs, however, they do alter mood and mental state. Some people do abuse Antipsychotics in an attempt to sleep. Others may take it out of boredom. They have been found at pill parties, which means they are most likely combined with Alcohol and possibly other substances.
Despite some clear abuse, these prescription medications are not necessarily to blame. The nature of Antipsychotics is such that they generally do not drive a person to seek them out for recreational use. They may counter or help with side effects of other drugs, however, they themselves do not prompt much concern regarding addiction. Anyone abusing Antipsychotics seems to be desperate for some sort of substance and would likely not choose Antipsychotics as a first choice.
The concern is not in the addiction nature of Antipsychotics specifically, but in the tendency of society to turn to drugs as the answer for seemingly everything. Especially when it involves children, the argument over the validity of prescription drug use for certain issues has no end in sight.