If you have been told that your child would benefit from taking medication there are some things you need to know. In my latest book, “When Kids Need Meds; Everything You Need to Know About Psychiatric Medication and Youngsters” I have prepared a 13-step guide that will help you resolve your concerns about the medications. I will share it with you in a series of three blogs this week. Please share it with others who have questions and concerns and email me with questions.
- Have your doctor explain your child’s diagnosis in as much detail as possible. Is there a known cause for the difficulty? What course might the disorder take if not treated? For example, if a child with ADHD doesn’t get treatment, the chance of substance abuse increases as the teenage years approach. Teenagers not treated for depression have an increased suicide risk. What positive effects of the medication will the psychiatrist be looking for? How long should it take? What will he do if it doesn’t work? While there is no medication which totally cures everything, your child’s prescription should target specific symptoms.
- Make sure your child gets other forms of treatment along with medication. What does your doctor recommend? Individual talk therapy? Special school interventions? Behavioral therapy? Family counseling? Be wary of the practitioner who simply gives you a pill and wishes you good luck.
- Make sure you child is physically healthy. If not, then the prescribing psychiatrist needs to be familiar with a medical condition. To this end, the doctor should take a detailed medical history of your child. Also, I like to see a report of a recent physical examination from the child’s pediatrician. I also suggest a routine 12 lead electrocardiogram in most cases. The blood tests and EKG will not only give signs of present conditions but will serve as baseline readings. Some medication affects blood tests and the EKG, and if we don’t have a baseline it will be difficult to know if future abnormal readings are caused by a medication or were always present.
- Have a clear understanding of the medication’s side effects. Most side effects are fleeting and mild and don’t interfere much in your child’s life in any way, but they can be specific depending on the medication. You should know what they are so you don’t get worried. Serious or long lasting side effects for child and teenage psychotropic drugs are rare, but again, you should be told of the signs. If you read information from the Internet, be careful about the websites you choose. Don’t jump to the conclusion that the information you find online is more accurate than you psychiatrist’s years of clinical prescribing experience.
As part of National Mental Health Awareness Month I am offering free copies of my book. Please email me if you’d like a copy.
This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.