Teens

Are Teens Overmedicated?

| by Toni Brayer MD
It is summer camp season for kids, and well-run camps require a medical history and record of prescription medications that the child is taking. One prestigious camp for teens (ages 11 to 19 - average camper is 16) in Southern California had 153 residential teenagers last week. These kids come from California and other states across the U.S. Fifty percent come from out of state and a number of campers each week are international. OK, so far so good. Healthy teens getting together for a week of learning and fun. Here is the shocker!

I was amazed to learn that almost 25% of these kids are on prescription medication. Can it be that we are overmedicating teens?

I am not counting birth control pills in this count. (All sexually active teens should be on the pill or another reliable form of birth control.) I'm also leaving out medication for asthma, allergies, or acne. The medications that 23% of the teens took were:

  • Adderal
  • Acyclovir
  • Ambien
  • Fluoxetine
  • Lamictal
  • Lexapro
  • Naprosyn
  • Prozac
  • Strattera
  • Vyvanse
  • Zoloft

I don't know the medical history of these kids, but at first glance that seems excessive. I know that certain disorders are serious and can respond to medication. For serious psychiatric conditions, it can be life-saving. But those conditions are not the norm. Many of these drugs are used for ADHD or anxiety disorders. The sheer number of meds in those categories is alarming. Parents and physicians need to question if we are trying to make our children fit a certain mold. Are we less accepting of diverse personalities and behavior? 

I fear the pendulum for using pharmaceutical medications to treat teen angst or teen hyperactivity may have swung way too far.

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Being a teenager is one big mood disorder.  It doesn't need to be medicated away.

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