MEDICATED This is a documentary that aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) program, Frontline. I described difficulties diagnosing and treating childhood behavioral disorders. In my view it illustrates a tendency in The West, especially in America, to treat many perceived disorders, including behavioral, as medically based, that is caused by some kind of brain defect rather than by a deficiency in socialization. This is not to deny that a brain problem can cause behavioral issues. Rather I would argue such disorders may be caused by brain defects or problems in the social environment or a combination of both.
The documentary pointed out that at least until the time President Clinton gave a 6 month patent extension to pharmaceutical companies on new drugs in exchange for their commitment to do clinical trials on their effects on children as well as adults, there was little research on their effectiveness in treating children and whether there would be any negative and dangerous side effects on kids. The program documented by individual case studies, that especially prior to Clinton’s policy change, little was known about the effectiveness and dangers of drugs on children compared to adults and the risk that while a drug may prove effective in treating one disorder it may cause another.
It also highlighted the tendency to faulty diagnosis because some symptoms are similar in different disorders. For example, an increasing number of children have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder previously thought to be an adult only problem. In conclusion, I think the program has done an excellent job documenting the extension of America’s medical culture to children with its’ assumption that most medical issues can be treated with proscribed pills.
However, I think it falls short in its failure to examine more holistic solutions. For example, what effect does a child’s parenting and/or extended social environment have on a child’s behavior? Also, if a child’s body is not developed sufficiently to react favorably to pharmaceuticals could techniques from Oriental medicine such as acupuncture and aromatherapy prove more effective and less dangerous? I think an investigation into alternatives to pharmaceutical based treatment regimes could prove enlightening and offer better options.