Every now and again, you’ll see a disturbing trend arise that makes you step back and question the usefulness of certain forms of “progress.” The First World has produced some pretty incredible advancements over the years such as spaceflight, realistic video games and communication technology that allows you to instantly binge watch Friends, if you so please. In a Frankenstein’s monster sort of way, one of the greatest achievements that the wielders of capitalism have produced has sadly also resulted in one of our greatest follies: The medical industry.
Through modern medicine, we’ve created cures for diseases that hitherto would have killed us off. We can open up your skull, poke around in your brain, put it back together and send you on your way. We’ve even created pills that make you harder than Battletoads. These advancements are all well and good but some aspects of the medical industry have spiraled out of control, namely in regard to what we view as disorders in children.
Being noisy, disruptive and destructive is the childhood archetype; from Day One it’s sleeping, eating, crying and pooping. You have no concept of “decent hours,” so when you need attention you wail for it. Soon after that you go mobile and do much of the same thing, only now you’ve added “put everything in your mouth” to your repertoire. After you learn to walk, you often move too quickly for your own good. Much of your parents’ time is now spent chasing your dumb ass around the house to make sure you don’t eat this, or destroy that or write on walls with whatever you found – be it from a purse or from your diaper.
These are your prime idiot years and you need to go through them in order to learn that being an idiot is bad.
Apparently, this normal stage of childhood has become a little too much for some of today’s parents to handle and, as a result, the parents have started drugging children to modify their behavior. While not anything new in itself, as evidenced by the Ritalin (methylphenidate) rush of the 90s, parents are now using far more effective drugs on more than just rowdy fifth graders.
We are now giving psychiatric drugs to infants and toddlers – and we aren’t talking about a small number of children either. According to IMS Health, over 274,000 infants and around 370,000 toddlers were given prescriptions in 2013. While today’s drugs of choice – like Xanax and Prozac – are not Ritalin, I still blame Ritalin.
During the 90s with the wide availability of Ritalin, school children were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder left and right, and for every diagnosis came a prescription for good ol’ vitamin R. For many parents, it subconsciously became trendy for their children to get diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. In fact, it became so trendy and the demand became so high from 1990 to 2000 that the producers of methylphenidate had to increase their production from under 2,000 kilos a year to around 150,000 kilos annually.
With Ritalin, kids could now take part in the “a pill for every ill” culture right alongside Mommy and Daddy. Side effects (which may include sleeplessness, loss of appetite and dark thoughts) be damned. Just take your pill, listen to your Spice Girls, wear your JNCOs and feel bad for whoever Bono told you to feel bad for. Thanks 90s! You set a really nice precedent.
I could pardon Ritalin and drugs like it to a small degree. They were primarily used to see to it that little Billy paid attention and got good grades in school. It’s a sentiment that, while off the mark, was at least well intended by most parents. However, this new trend of giving psychiatric drugs to children even younger than three years old just seems selfish and dangerous.
Does it annoy you that your baby cries a lot? Slip junior some anxiety meds and he’ll be more docile than a stoned sloth. Toddler won’t stop for five seconds to give Mommy a breather? Xanax your little angel and maybe she’ll act like one.
Is your offspring acting a little too rowdy? Is he screaming a lot? Climbing on stuff? Running where she’s not supposed to run? Throwing things? Wearing food rather than eating it? Then congratulations! You have what’s known as a “baby” and these small creatures do baby things. When you had this baby you accepted the responsibilities that come with it, like the fact that the kid is going to wear on your last nerve, and that – even when you’ve reached a breaking point – you must discipline the child, while practicing discipline yourself.
Parenting is hard work. That attention your child demands is monumental, but it provides not only an opportunity to form a bond, but also a wide-open window to teach. Your child is going to have needs and make mistakes. That’s his job. It’s your job as the parent to see to it that every need is met and every lesson gotten across. Giving your child a pill takes away these much-needed learning experiences, and furthermore it can take away a huge chunk of his/her childhood – just so that you can keep your stress level down. Once you have a kid, your quiet nights and slow days are over and drugging your child to get a piece of that back means you are putting your comfort before your kid’s needs.
That said, the real crime here is that these medications are taking what makes a child out of the child. Growing up is hard enough, but now the child is forced to take on the side effects of drugs that also rob him of his desire to be normal. Furthermore, if this trend continues, junior could be on psychiatric meds well into adulthood, as schools and foster homes still practice the example set by the 90s and at much higher rates.
Although this has been forced on both sexes, it’s happened more so for the rowdier of the two, the boys. And while the number of girls deemed to have ADHD gently sloped upward from 1991 to 2008, the boys’ numbers look like a mountain climber on speed. In the same time period, the number of doctors diagnosing boys with ADHD went from 40,000 to over 160,000. The statistics are not just shocking, they are tragic when you realize what is being deemed as a disorder is really just boys being boys.
Boys are wired to be kinetic. They want to compete, run, jump, bleed and destroy. They like action over sitting quietly. They prefer stories of monsters and heroes, and cops and robbers. They like mock battles with fake weapons, and if they don’t have a fake weapon they’ll make one with whatever they have lying around. They are noise on two legs. This is the typical young male and he is met with a lot of disapproval – none more so than in our schools.
Psychologist Michael Thompson made a very astute observation when he said that schools today treat boys like defective girls, and that girls’ behavior has become the gold standard. His point is backed up by a tragic reality. Girls tend to succeed much more in school than boys do, earning more honors and getting more degrees. On the other hand, boys tend to be on the end of more punishments than girls and find more friction with the zero tolerance policies, accounting for 71 percent of all school suspensions – and sometimes for silly things like throwing pretend grenades or chewing Pop Tarts into the shapes of guns. Young males aren’t sitting still and staying quiet as well as their female counterparts. Instead of recognizing this and adjusting accordingly, schools would rather refer parents to a doctor to have the boys put on medication to curb their natural instincts and tendencies.
Why? Long story short, it’s because schools want good test scores and, like parents want designer babies, teachers want designer students. Better test scores mean a better budget for the school. In order to get those test scores, teachers need students that learn more – and do so more quickly. This requires a quiet, focused classroom and, quite obviously, the very nature of the boy is the monkey wrench in their gears.
When you ask something kinetic to sit still and stay quiet, it’s going to look like it has a disorder (even though it really doesn’t), especially when the environment is a place where kinetics aren’t welcome. Boy behavior isn’t the problem, it’s how schools view and handle the typical boy that is, and it’s a crime that our children are being pumped full of drugs in order for some kind of classroom utopia to be achieved. Schools have gone from being places where kids learn reading, writing and arithmetic to looking like the society from Equilibrium. This is horrible, but it’s more horrible that it’s spilling into homes, and at younger and younger ages.
Children need to be children. Sipping on Klonopin and juice to make the kids act how you want them to act is a Stepford too far. While I admit there are instances where drugs may be necessary for children, our slow descent into a society that values the numbing effects of a pill over the time and energy it takes to teach discipline and coping skills will have disastrous consequences down the line, especially for men.
The dangerous pattern here is obvious: We’re slowly eliminating individualism by drugging kids into fitting into an easily manageable box of uniformed behavior. Whether intentional or not, we’re starting our children off dependent on a drug to feel “normal,” when we should be teaching kids that normalcy is being who you are and letting your freak flag fly – no matter how young you are.
A drug has a uniformed purpose; an individual does not.
Hailing from Austin Texas, Brandon Morse has been writing about politics and culture across many websites for the last six years, with a heavy emphasis on anti-authoritarianism. Aside from writing articles, he is also known for writing scripts and voice acting. He is an avid gamer, dog person, and has a bad habit of making vague references to things no one has seen or heard of. Follow him at @TheBrandonMorse on Twitter.