Kids Can't "Just Say No" To Perscription Drugs

Kids can find themselves in a no win situation when their doctor prescribes a drug for them and their parents sanction its use. They can’t “just say no” when the authorities they trust convince them of the drug’s necessity. Then when they comply with “doctor’s orders”, a diagnosis of mental illness and the use of the prescribed drug is documented in their medical records. This information can hurt them. Children’s medical records are not confidential. The criminal records of children are more protected than their medical records.

It’s not unusual for a troubled youth, an “at risk” teen, to hope for another chance at life by joining the military. Historically, the military has rescued many that might have lived a long life of regret if not for career or job training obtained in the army, the navy, or the marines. Today, the military will not accept known drug users into its ranks.

The military doesn’t differentiate between the use of psychotropic prescription drugs and the use of street drugs. Even a teen that had taken Ritalin for Attention Deficit Disorder at a very early age will not be accepted.

The youth from Columbine High School lied about his use of prescribed psychotropic drugs on his application form to get into the marines. That was a lie he would not have been able to get away with even if his parents hadn’t told. If he had been using illegal street drugs he might have been able to get away with the lye, but lying about the use of psychotropic prescription drugs was a lie with no chance of success. His use of prescription drugs is documented in his medical record. The military isn’t the only organization that has access to medical records.

Perhaps we ought to take a closer look at the messages we give our youth about drug use. We teach them to say no to street drugs and we hold them accountable when they don’t. We caution them about using legal drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. We put age restrictions on their ability to purchase beer and cigarettes. When it comes to psychotropic prescription drugs however, we make it very difficult for them to say no and we hold them accountable to take these drugs. Then, we make the fact that they took them almost a matter of public record. We won’t forget they took them and we won’t let them forget it either. Information in medical records isn’t confidential, it doesn’t go away, and it can be used against them.   We end up punishing our children for taking the drugs we made them take.

We need to ask ourselves some very important questions. Should children have the right to privacy about their mental health? Should they have the right to say no to prescribed psychotropic drugs? Are they capable of informed consent? Are they old enough to understand the ramifications of being diagnosed mentally ill, taking prescription drugs, and what goes in their records? Should they be held accountable for using prescription drugs when their parents, their doctors, their psychotherapists and their school counselors persuade them of the need for those drugs?

—M. LaCourt

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