June 18, 2009

Just say Maybe

Let's talk about drugs. Not the illegal, illicit, recreational kind . . . the real stuff, the meds a psychiatrist prescribes for people with neurological and mental impairments.The ones Hart and Jeff take.

Let's say you are a parent of a typical child. Perhaps you are thinking, "I would never permit my child to take psychotropic drugs, especially those prescribed off-label." My advice to you: Shut up.

Say you are a parent of a 7- or 8-year-old who is beginning to have difficulties in school. You know your child has always been extremely sensitive and high-spirited, but now school professionals are suggesting a medical workup and possible "pharmacological intervention." My advice: Just do it. You will have to do it sooner or later. Possibly you may be among the many parents who, after great soul-searching, agree to medication and find that it is wonderful. Your child is focused, attentive, and suddenly, a joy to be around. Case closed. You will wish you did it sooner.

However, there are lots of parents like me. My boys' impairments are so significant, so severe, that I have agreed to a medication regimen in hopes of mitigating their difficulties just a bit. If medication can make Hart and Jeff a little bit more available for classroom learning, a wee bit less impulsive, a tiny bit less agitated and anti-social, I figure, it is worth it.

But now, I have entered the next soul-searching phase. On his last visit, Hart appeared to have developed a tic or a tremor. In my head, alarm bells went off right away. We parents conferred: doctors and staff conferred. A period of observation, a battery of tests, careful study of behavior as Hart's medication is adjusted.

This is the yin question to my original yang decision: how much quality-of-life improvement does Hart's medication make? If the meds only make the tiniest difference, are they worthwhile at all?


Amy said...

First of all - thank you for your "shameless" prodding to return to your blog and for all the laughs you tossed out like fairy dust. Can you hear the clapping?

Second - oh how wrenching - every step forward means how many steps backward or upside down? I understand your worry - but as usual you sound so on top of things and it sounds like such a careful assessment was done to make a medication adjustment that perhaps a solution can be found. Do the doctors suggest that the benefits of medication might increase over time so that there might be the possiblity of more than just minimal differences? Once the medication has had a chance to take effect perhaps Jeff and/or Hart will be able to let you know in some way (?) if they feel any possible worthwhile improvements from their end or perhaps you might see for yourself.
I think these things usually take time to determine.

I know that a lot of times it's really just trial by error to find the right medication. Because drugs affect everyone so differently there sometimes is no way around just trying different ones. It's really such an art I've found.

That doesn't answer your question about whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Don't know the answer to that one - but the alarm bells are important - it's just not clear how many times you need to hear them ring before you decide ultimately. I think it's something you have to really feel your way towards - as you've been doing such an amazing job all along. But the question is always worth asking.

Hope that's helpful to some degree.

I wish you the best-

Becky said...

Although your struggles are greater than mine, I am right with you in the med game. Playing with your kids' brain chemistry is serious business, yet, will one more adjustment yield better results or set them further back? This was never explained in any parenting contract I saw!

If you don't mind me stepping on my soap box for one minute, would like to say that mental impairments/illness is the sane as neurological illnesses. I make this point only because I feel it is important to try to change culture and stigma related to mental illnesses. They are less of a mystery that ever before, and we know that may are brain based chemical or physical abnormalities. Legitimate illnesses, like all others, except that they manifest themselves in our children with mood, attention, learning, thought, communication difficulties. I now step down.

Keep up the blogging, I enjoy reading it.

You and your boys are in my thoughts,


Becky said...

I'm a little late with this, and not to nit pick - but-- I would argue that mental disorders ARE neuro disorders. are one and the same. I make the point only because it is important to slowly change our culture in how "mental illnesses" are viewed.

I feel your pain about the med issue and my opinion about other people's opinions.

Thank you for sharing your blog, when are you going to write a book about this stuff?


Stefanie N. said...

I never mentioned this, but at the ripe old age of 50+ I was put on drugs for AADD. I wish, oh, I wish, I had had them in high school and college. It would have been much easier to study.