Doctors prescribed sedatives and powerful, mood-altering medications for nearly 700 Ohio babies and toddlers on Medicaid last summer, according to a Dispatch review of records.
‘‘It’s shocking," said Dr. Ellen Bassuk, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. ‘‘Who’s really being helped by these children being drugged? The babies? Or their caregivers?
And a three-month investigation reveal growing concerns that pills and injections, most of them untested on youths, have become a quick fix to stifle troublemakers.
‘‘At its worst, it’s like a scene from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Nurse Ratched chasing after kids with syringes of psychiatric drugs,' said Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, legislative director for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
Legal Rights, an independent state agency, has examined nearly 500 cases involving chemical restraints during the past five years, including:
• A 5-year-old boy who was so doped up that he couldn’t stop batting the air, complaining about imaginary bugs and smacking his lips.
• A 10-year-old boy who was chemically restrained 69 times over 80 days.
• A 12-year-old girl who was injected six times over nine months with high doses of Thorazine, a powerful sedative that can knock kids out and cause muscle spasms and twitches. She also was physically restrained 31 times by as many as three men, despite a history of being physically and sexually abused.
‘‘It’s scandalous that medications are used to subdue kids for overworked and underpaid staff or as punishment for bad behavior,' said Carolyn Knight, the group’s executive director.
Children already traumatized by abuse, neglect or mental illness can be hurt further by being forced to take a medication, especially when held down by adrenaline-pumped adults, said Dr. Ellen Bassuk, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has reviewed Ohio cases.
‘‘The mental-health system is a mess,' she said. ‘‘Not only are these places giving chemical restraints, but they’re prescribing risky combinations and dosages of drugs that are as dangerous and inhumane.'
The number of children taking mental-health drugs tripled from 1987 to ’99. Some of the most common prescriptions (generic name in parentheses): Ativan ( lorazepam ) BuSpar ( buspirone ) Klonopin ( clonazepam ) Paxil ( paroxetine ) Prozac ( fluoxetine ) Zoloft ( sertraline ) Haldol ( haloperidol ) Risperdal ( risperidone ) Zyprexa ( olanzapine ) Depakote ( valproic acid ) Lithonate ( lithium carbonate ) Tegretol ( carbamazepine ) Adderall ( amphetamine ) Concerta ( methylphenidate ) Ritalin ( methylphenidate )
Forced medication straitjackets kids
Even babies getting treated as mentally ill