Growing numbers of parents are turning to drugs for a “quick fix” solution to their children’s mental disorders, figures show.

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor – The Telegraph

Sami Timimi, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist in the NHS and a visiting professor at Lincoln University, said the trend underlined the “McDonaldisation” of childhood mental health.
He said that, like fast food, the medical industry fed on “peoples’ desire for instant satisfaction and a quick fix”.

More children were taking medication to deal with emotional difficulties, anxiety, eating disorders and behavioural problems with little evidence of improvements, he said.

Prof Timimi cited a 2004 study in which researchers analysed prescriptions in nine countries over a two-year period. It found significant increases in drugs to deal with childhood mental health problems. The lowest rise was in Germany – 13 per cent – and the highest was the UK, with 68 per cent.

Separate figures showed that in the UK, prescriptions for stimulants increased from about 6,000 in 1994 to over 450,000 by 2004.

“By viewing children’s poor behaviour and distressed emotional state as being caused by an ‘illness’, all are apparently spared from further scrutiny,” he said in the book Childhood, Wellbeing and a Therapeutic Ethos. “The result, however, fits into another aspect of our ‘fast culture’. With the widespread application of the techniques of medicine to manage our children’s behaviour and emotional state, particularly through use of drugs, we have achieved what I call the ‘McDonaldisation’ of children’s mental health.

“Like fast food, recent medication-centred practice comes from the most aggressively consumerist society (USA), feeds on peoples desire for instant satisfaction and a ‘quick fix’, fits into a busy life-style, requires little engagement with the product, requires only the most superficial training, knowledge, and understanding to produce the product, and has the potential to produce immeasurable damage in the long term to both the individuals who consume these products as well as to public health more generally.”