The number of individuals diagnosed for one or more mental disorders and consequently treated with a corresponding drug has significantly increased the past several years. The following statistics displaying this are shocking:
* 8.5 million people are prescribed Effexor, an anti-depressant every year (Harris, 2004).
* More than 1 million children and teenagers are taking drugs for some form of mental disorder (Elias, 2004).
* There are close to 2 million cases each year of drug complications that result in 180,000 deaths or life-threatening illnesses in the eldery (Langreth, 2004).
These alarming figures call us to question the causes behind this influx of ...view middle of the document...
Since then, research has continued and more children have been diagnosed with ADHD and treated with drugs such as Ritalin. Today, the number of children diagnosed for ADHD stands at about 5 million and the United States consumes approximately 90% of the world’s Ritalin production (Loewenton, 2002).
Ethical Issues in Prescription of Drugs to Children
One of the big ethical issues raised is that the addictive qualities of these drugs could lead to substance abuse later in these children’s lives. Ritalin, Adderall, and Metadate CD, all drugs used to treat children with ADHD, are what are known as Schedule II controlled substances, the most addictive substances that are still legal (Zernike and Petersen, 2004). Methylphenidate and Ritalin are nearly identical to amphetamine, commonly known as “speed.” The Drug Enforcement Administration puts methylphenidate in the same class of drugs as morphine and codeine: drugs with legitimate medical application but a high potential for abuse. Also according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Ritalin and other similar stimulants are among the most frequently stolen prescription drugs. Students are crushing and snorting pills for a speed-like high and Ritalin has even been referred to as a “gateway drug” (Merrow, 1995).
The concern that giving a Schedule II substance to a child will result in future substance abuse is an ethical issue for all drugs prescribed to children, especially drugs prescriped for depression. The US Surgeon General reported on mental health in 1999 that about one of five Americans younger than 18 has a diagnosable mental disorder and more than one million children and teenagers are taking drugs for some form of a mental disorder (Elias, 2004). In addition to the fear of later substance abuse, the taking of these drugs by children has also been thought to increase suicidal thoughts and attempts in these children. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts was three times greater among Paxil, an antidepressant, users than children given a placebo, the equivalent to a sugar pill (USA Today, 2003). Biological psychiatrist Dr. David Healy served as an expert witness in two American court cases involving suicide and SSRIs where he discovered information in support of this claim. Healy saw unpublished data on trials done by drug companies that found that 25% of healthy volunteers given the drug had some sort of unpleasant psychological reaction suggesting “that the likelihood of someone committing suicide during their first month of treatment with Prozac is ten times greater than if they were untreated” (Burne, 2002).
Another ethical issue raised for both children and adult patients is the doctors’ failure to explain the withdrawal symptoms that will occur when a patient wants to discontinue their use of a drug. Patients have expressed serious disdain against the many doctors that inadequately portray the side...