Medication is one of the trickiest parts of dealing with a child that has any type of mood disorder from ADHD to Bipolar Disorder. As a teacher I have seen medications be a complete game changer for students who are struggling. I also have seen students who become zombies of their normal selves due to being over medicated.
When it became obvious last December my son was struggling with depression I did what most parents do. I took my son to the pediatrician and he started seeing a therapist. The pediatrician suggested he start an anti-depressant, also known in the class of drugs as an SSRI (selective serotonin rebuke inhibitor). I reluctantly started him on 10mg of Prozac and gave it to him at night as per the doctors orders. This was done with a lot of thought and reluctance on my part because research shows SSRI’s can cause an increase in suicidal thoughts in adolescents .
During this time, the depression became worst and my son slept less and his behavior became more erratic and irritable. I was told the Prozac could take up to 6 weeks to work effectively so in the midst of me working full time, and dealing with his struggles I never thought the medication would be making things worse. Then when he got to wilderness last spring, the psychiatrist their immediately pulled him off the Prozac. She also informed us he shouldn’t take it at night because it is a stimulus, and that with adolescents Prozac rarely works and often makes them more aggressive. She felt strongly that the increase in his aggressiveness and lack of sleeping were probably directly related to the Prozac.
Bottom line, I couldn’t feel guilty and I can’t through this process. As Bruce and I say, “We make the best decision we can with the information we have at the time.” We cannot play the rabbit hole game of ‘what if?’ or we will drive ourselves insane. Needless to say I now approach medicating my son very differently.
First, I work with an amazing nurse practitioner psychiatrist based in Utah who is experienced with adolescents and these medicines. Skype is an amazing tool for doctors appointments. Do not let location deter you from finding an effective medical professional. Our psychiatrist will stay with him long term through his various placements in order to have that continuity in his needs. Second, I’m not using my pediatrician who does not have the experience in the class of medications he is taking. Finally, the psychiatrist and I see eye to eye on our philosophy for using meds for him. Start slowly and lightly and only change one variable at a time. As she says if he doesn’t notice real differences then the meds are working correctly.
Therefore, my son is going to be in wilderness a few more weeks. More and more they think he has a major chemical imbalance in his brain. He will stay in wilderness a little longer as we are tweaking his meds slowly in a stable environment where he has supervision and they can watch for side effects. We are also starting with a light dose of a new medication and will slowly raise or lower the meds based on need and, of course, his growing fourteen year old body.
So what is my conclusion on meds? We are fortunate to live in a time when medications are an option to help chemical imbalances. I strongly suggest you use a child psychiatrist that you see eye to eye with philosophically. Then, you as the parent(s) have to “make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.” Can you tell this is becoming our new family mantra?