It seems you can't turn on your television without being inundated with commercials for new pharmaceutical drugs. The actor spends about 10 seconds touting the benefits of taking one little pill and the last 20 seconds telling you about the severe and sometimes deadly side effects that may result when you do.

Most medications are created to treat the symptoms of a particular ailment, not the cause. Often modern medicine practices do not allot enough time to find out why you have a particular ailment. Instead, they prescribe one or more drugs that will take away or cover up the symptoms.

This also applies to prescription medications for children. When children don't fit into the little box society calls "normal" the search begins to identify what's wrong with them. A wide range of labels have been created to describe these disorders. A natural following to being diagnosed with a disorder is the little pill that will make your child appear normal - that will help him fit back into that little box. There has been a steady increase in the diagnosis of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in the last 20 years. In case you are not familiar with these disorders, here are the most common: Attention Deficit & Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder * Bi-Polar Disorder * Conduct Disorder * Anxiety Disorder (including Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) * Phobias * Acute Stress Disorder * Depression * Learning Disorders * Eating Disorders * Autism * Schizophrenia and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

The FDA has approved 14 different pharmaceuticals to treat ADD and ADHD alone with an additional 156 medications to treat the other disorders. According to the National Institute of Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, estimates between 4%-6% of the general population suffers from Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders. However, for most states, the number of children diagnosed and medicated is far above that average. One example dates back to 1992 when the prescriptions written for psycho stimulant medications used to treat childhood behavioral disorders in North Carolina were reported at 24,584 according to the state's Medicaid Program. By 1998, that number had increased to 135,057, an increase of over 550 percent. In the same report, the use of antidepressants in 1992 was reported at 1,326 however; by 1998 that number had risen by over 1,200 percent to a whopping 25,392 prescriptions. This rise in diagnosis and medications coincided with the passage of a Federal law (1991) that gave school districts an additional $400.00 for each child that was diagnosed with a learning disorder.

In 2003, the Center for Disease Control conducted two statewide surveys based on the records for state sponsored medical treatment. The percentages listed in these surveys do not include diagnosis or treatment through private medical services. The first survey compared the percentage of children aged 4-17 years ever diagnosed with ADHD by age, sex and medication treatment status in the United States. The results ranged from 2% of 4 yr old males to 15% of 14 and 16 yr old males and approximately 0.5% of 4 yr old females and 6% of 11 and 17 yr old females have ever been diagnosed with this disorder. For those children that are currently taking medications, the numbers ranged from 1% of 4 yr old males to 9% of 10 and 12 yr old males and approximately 0.25% of 4 yr old females to 4% of 9, 10 and 11 yr old females. The second survey compared the percentage of children aged 4-17 years ever diagnosed with ADHD by medication treatment status and state/area in the United States. The results of this survey showed that overall, 8% of 4-17 year old children had ever been diagnosed with ADHD and 4.5% of these children were currently being medicated.

On a personal note, the state of Arizona ranked 48th in number of children diagnosed with this disorder (6.25%) and 48th in the number of children currently medicated (3%). Colorado ranked last in children diagnosed with ADHD at approximately 5.25% and California ranked last in the number of children currently medicated at approximately 2.25%.

Warning labels that now must be included with all prescriptions for these medications provide a long list of dangerous and sometimes fatal side-effects. Between the years of 1990-2000 over 569 children were hospitalized. Of those, 38 were life threatening hospitalizations and 186 children died.

The labels also warn that long term use can slow a child's growth, and as these drugs may impair vision or reactions, be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. Doesn't achieving success in school require a child to be awake and alert? Maybe we should add a new class to the roster - ZOMBIE 101.

Author's Bio: 

Mary M. Ernsberger is completing her 2nd degree program in Western Herbalism at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. She is a Certified Master Hypnotherapist, Mind-Body Psychologist, Children & Families Life Coach, the author of "Recognizing The Greatness In Each Child," public speaker and founder of the Learning Connection Holistic Center. More information is available at