Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Bitter Pill

A student of mine told me something very disturbing today. The generation of kids who are in high school today have finally been named: Generation Rx. That's right, as in prescription drugs. See today's students are medicated for all sorts of things. ADD, ADHD, OCD, etc.... She's right, however, today's kids are medicated for so many things and more and more dead people are being assigned a medical condition. Did you know that they think Ben Franklin was ADD? How about Hitler was OCD? Did you know Moses had Asperger's syndrome? Wow, what's next? The first caveman actually had ADHD, and we just evolved. Oy! For the love of Pete, there are now two year olds (TWO YEAR OLDS!!!) being medicated. That's like giving a one year old a chiropractic adjustment. Ummm, chemistry is still changing in a kid, don't screw that up by introducing a new chemical.
I think about all the students I have had in class, and all the pills they had. It's really scary. When I was a kid, I would get hyper here and there. It was awesome. Sometimes that hyper activity led me to create cool things or try new things. Does this mean I should have been medicated? Modern medicine would probably say yes.
When I was told that my students are Generation Rx, I thought about when I taught at a theatre camp back in 2000. During the Summer of that year, I was the Technical Director and Head Technical Teacher. I was also given the assignment of giving and watching kids take their pills at lunch. Most them were on Ritalin, but a few were on other drugs. Out of 125 attendees, 45 took pills. 45! It was easily a little over a half an hour of giving the pill, checking their mouth, next. I did this everyday, five days a week, for eight weeks. It was so odd.
One day, a kid missed taking his pill. He was working on a scene and forgot to come in to take it. I was told not to chase them down and make them take the pill, because it might embarrass them. I never saw a change in this student. It made me wonder what the pill was really doing for him. After asking several other counselors, I was told that alot of the kids were on medication not because they really needed it, but because their parents THOUGHT they needed it. Think about that for a second. I think you need to lose your hand. Not because there's something wrong, but because something COULD be wrong. Maybe I'm looking at wrong, but it feels like we are trying to over medicate for everything (got a cold, forget the soup and go to the hospital), and find ailments to blame. It couldn't be that a kid has a ton of energy, he or she has to be ADHD.
Why should we be worried about this? Because recent reports in magazines and even on CNN show that 1 in 5 teenagers are now abusing the prescription drugs. Know what happens when a kid who doesn't need Ritalin takes it? He or she gets hyperactive, like taking super uppers. Where can this kid get the drugs? From friends or even siblings. Shouldn't we be worried about that?
Am I saying that there should be no medication at all? No. Alot of kids do benefit from the prescription drugs, but the problem is that we are using the drugs as our go to course right now. We need to start thinking about alternative medicine (a shameless plug for my sister, I admit it) and alternative ways to help students without just going to medication. My ultimate fear here is having a kid who, from birth, is given some sort of medication to keep him or her from being "wild" or carefree. So, to Generation Rx: I hope you are the generation that shows society we need to re-think some of our ideas. Every generation challenges a norm, maybe yours will be the medication dependence.

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