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Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Upby Kaitlin Bell Barnett
Synopses & Reviews
Over the last two decades, we have seen a dramatic spike in young people taking psychiatric medication. As new drugs have come on the market and diagnoses have proliferated, prescriptions have increased many times over. The issue has sparked heated debates, with most arguments breaking down into predictable pro-med advocacy or anti-med jeremiads. Yet, we’ve heard little from the “medicated kids” themselves.
In Dosed, Kaitlin Bell Barnett, who began taking antidepressants as a teenager, takes a nuanced look at the issue as she weaves together stories from members of this “medication generation,” exploring how drugs informed their experiences at home, in school, and with the mental health professions.
For many, taking meds has proved more complicated than merely popping a pill. The questions we all ask growing up—“Who am I?” and “What can I achieve?”—take on extra layers of complexity for kids who spend their formative years on medication. As Barnett shows, parents’ fears that “labeling” kids will hurt their self-esteem means that many young children don’t understand why they take pills at all, or what the drugs are supposed to accomplish. Teens must try to figure out whether intense emotions and risk-taking behaviors fall within the spectrum of normal adolescent angst, or whether they represent new symptoms or drug side effects. Young adults negotiate schoolwork, relationships, and the workplace, while struggling to find the right medication, dealing with breakdowns and relapses, and trying to decide whether they still need pharmaceutical treatment at all. And for some young people, what seemed like a quick fix turns into a saga of different diagnoses, symptoms, and a changing cocktail of medications.
The results of what one psychopharmacologist describes as a “giant, uncontrolled experiment” are just starting to trickle in. Barnett shows that a lack of ready answers and guidance has often proven extremely difficult for these young people as they transition from childhood to adolescence and now to adulthood. With its in-depth accounts of individual experiences combined with sociological and scientific context, Dosed provides a much-needed road map for patients, friends, parents, and those in the helping professions trying to navigate the complicated terrain of growing up on meds.
"Call them Generation M — for medicated. In this sometimes disturbing and often heartbreaking debut, journalist and blogger (PsychCentral.com) Barnett chronicles her own rocky road to adulthood and that of five of her peers — all medicated since childhood for diagnoses ranging from attention deficit disorder to depression. Rather than enter debates about medicated children, Barnett focuses on the experiences of the young people themselves, their rebellions, breakdowns, and battle with side effects. By 1996, nearly a million American children were taking psychotropic drugs — triple the number nine years earlier. Nonjudgmental and well-versed in the medical literature, Barnett laces her profiles with the history of our understanding of childhood mental illness and its treatment. Among those profiled is Claire, who at age 11, worried about the pointlessness of life, became emotionally volatile; she willingly started taking an antidepressant; 20 years later she still accepts her need for medication. On the other hand, Paul, who acted out aggressively while spending his youth unhappily in foster homes, was put on Ritalin at age five, and as an adult he saw his medication as the wrong treatment for behavior stemming from a troubled childhood. Cogent and thoughtful, Barnett argues that we need a great deal more research on the long-term impact of psychotropic medications on children's mental and physical health, but also on their self-perception." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Over the last two decades, we have seen a dramatic spike in the number of young people taking psychiatric medication--but, despite a heated debate on the issue, we haven't heard directly from the "medicated kids" themselves. In Dosed, Kaitlin Bell Barnett, who was diagnosed with depression as a teenager, weaves together stories from members of this "medication generation, exploring their experiences at home, in school, and with the psychiatric profession. For many, taking meds has proved more complicated than merely popping a pill, as they try to parse their changing emotions, symptoms, side effects, and diagnoses without conclusive scientific research on how the drugs affect developing brains and bodies. While negotiating schoolwork, relationships, and the workplace, they also struggle to find the right drug, deal with breakdowns, decide whether they still need treatment at all--and, ultimately, make sense of their long-term relationship to psychotropic drugs.
The results of what one psychopharmacologist describes as a "giant, uncontrolled experiment" are just starting to trickle in. Barnett shows that a lack of ready answers and guidance has often proven extremely difficult for these young people as they transition from childhood to adolescence and now to adulthood. With its in-depth accounts of individual experiences combined with sociological and scientific context, Dosed provides a much-needed road map for patients, friends, parents, and those in the helping professions trying to navigate the complicated terrain of growing up on meds.
About the Author
Kaitlin Bell Barnett is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in numerous national and regional outlets, including the Boston Globe, New York Observer, Parents, and Prevention. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. This is her first book.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Difficult Kids
Chapter 2 Playing a Role: The Medicated Kid
Chapter 3 School Interventions
Chapter 4 Early Rebellions
Chapter 5 Something New?
Chapter 6 Breakdowns
Chapter 7 Side Effects
Chapter 8 Complicating Factors
Chapter 9 Reassessments
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Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » Special Needs