“Units respond to the corner of Fifth and Main. Mother reports her son is off his meds and threatening suicide. Son is armed with a pocketknife and is beginning to cut himself. Respond Code 3!”

Does the call sound familiar? When I began my career, it was unique. Now it is commonplace. Why the dramatic increase? What happened to the stabilizing forces in society?

Those are loaded questions that could stimulate debate and conversation in sociology and psychology courses around the country. While every family has their own unique story to tell, and I’m wary of being misunderstood, I believe evidence exists that suggests America is being drugged into submission. Medication to alter behavior should be the exception not the rule. Unfortunately, I fear it has become the unnecessary first option in too many circumstances.

Ten years ago my teenage daughter and I had a typical father/daughter conflict. I confronted her rebellion with some restrictive ground rules. My goal was to modify her destructive behavior. Before learning the new household policy, she asked, “Are you going to send me away or put me on medication?”

“Where did that come from?” I asked.

“It’s what happens to my friends” was her reply.

I was stunned. Based upon my professional experience I believed teenagers were being overmedicated—now my own daughter was asking if that was my chosen remedy for her rebellion based upon the experiences represented by peers in high school.

No, we did not send her away, nor did we choose to medicate her into obedience. She suffered consequences for acts of rebellion and learned some valuable life lessons. Now she is a married mother of three young children and is grateful for the path we each chose.

Jan Eastgate, President, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International wrote, “Global sales of antidepressants, stimulants, antianxiety, and antipsychotic drugs have reached more than $76 billion a year—more than double the annual US government budget spent on the war against drugs” [1].

“The use of psychotropic drugs by adult Americans increased 22 percent from 2001 to 2010, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychotropic medication,” reported the American Psychological Association [2].

Alarmingly, one in 13 schoolchildren between 6-17 take psychiatric drugs. The number of prescriptions for psychotropic drugs for children more than doubled between 1995 and 2000 [3]. But a new investigation by the Denver Post revealed that foster children are prescribed such drugs at a rate 12 times higher than other children on Medicaid [4]. Isn’t that what we call a “clue?” Something is wrong. I’m certain most members in law enforcement could tell their own horror stories.

Dr. Steven Lytle is a licensed clinical psychologist and founding partner with Sparrow House Counseling in Dallas, Texas. He told me an overwhelming number of adolescent patients are on mood altering medications when they seek help at Sparrow House. The medications have become first alternative solutions when non-medicated related methods are available. The medications, while required at times, have become the only line of defense while neglecting other forms of therapy such as problem solving skills and other coping mechanisms.

Dr. Lytle continued by saying people off meds are like an electrical wire that had its’ insulation removed. The sensory relays are confused. To fix the problem through therapy, they need to reprogram the brain. The treatment is not isolated to the young person, but family wide. When someone abruptly stops taking medications, the original problems are exacerbated. The sudden discontinuation of mood stabilizers can induce mania, which can look like anger, impulsivity, and agitation, particularly if the person has not learned coping skills prior to taking medical remedies—a fact frequently in place.

A stripped electrical wire can arc and cause a system to short circuit. Is that our problem? No wonder calls for service involving teens (and adults) off their meds have dramatically spiked. It’s one case of short circuit sorrow after another. What so many thought would be a quick fix turned into long-term tragedy.

When reporting that 7% of school-aged children were taking psyche meds, Gordon Serena from HealthDay News wrote, “Apparently, the medications are working: More than half of the parents said the drugs are helping their children” [5]. Yeah, and the television can peacefully occupy the time of a child, but what happens when the show is over? It’s a temporary hypnosis. In most cases, medication is no more a long-term remedy for behavioral adjustment than TV.

I know there are those in the clinical community, who may take issue with my assessment, but clinicians are not dealing with the desperate young person sitting on the ledge between safety and death; cops are.

In a previous article written for LET titled, In the Crosshairs of Controversy, I said, “Medication is replacing discipline leading to breeches in safety everywhere.” Do you understand where I’m coming from? If not, consider research from Dan Roberts.

Mr. Roberts authored an article titled, Nearly Every Mass Shooting in the Last 20 Years Shares One Thing in Common; & it’s Not Weapons. He chronicled the alarming correlation between mass killers linked to psychotropic medications. You would recognize many names on the list of 44, as their killing sprees became national news. All but one involved a pre-teen, teenager, or young adult [6].

I am not writing to cast aspersions but to bring attention to the “white elephant in the room.” On a personal level I would encourage people to resort to psychotropic medication as a last resort. Be mindful that medication is another term for drug.

As drug recognition experts we should know how important homeostasis is to physiological balance in the body. By way of quick reminder, ten systems in the body include the emotional, circulatory, intestinal, urinary, structural, glandular, respiratory, digestive, nervous, and immune. Simply stated, the body requires homeostasis—perfect balance in each system—to remain stabilized. Medication is required when something is unstable due to injury or disease. But if drugs or medication are introduced to a system that is already balanced, problems are sure to follow.

On a professional level, what should be considered? Much like so many calls for service, you need to stabilize what is unstable; render safe that which is unsafe. Do not over estimate the crisis based upon fear or miscalculated perceptions. On the flipside, do not underestimate the emergency, regardless of the innocence of appearance. Even a low voltage wire that lacks insulation can arc and create fire. Don’t get burned while removing powder from the keg!

Sources:

[1] http://www.cchr.org/cchr-reports/psychiatry/introduction.html (October 31, 2014)

[2] http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing.aspx (June 2012)

[3] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/07/psychotropic-drug-use.aspx (May 7, 2014)

[4] Osher, Christopher, Brown, Jennifer, Investigations—Drug firms have used dangerous tactics to drive sales to treat kids, Denver Post, (April 14, 2014)

[5] Gordon, Serena, 1 in 13 Schoolkids Take Psyche Meds: Report, HealthDay, (April 24, 2014)

[6] Roberts, Dan, Nearly Every Mass Shooting in the Last 20 Years Shares One Thing in Common; & it’s Not Weapons, AmmoLand—Shooting Sports News, (April 1, 2013)

Jim is the author of The Spirit behind Badge 145. He worked in military and civilian law enforcement for thirty-one years. While in the USAF he flew as a crewmember aboard the National Emergency Airborne Command Post—a presidential support detail. Following his military service, he served for twenty-seven years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California where he retired as a lieutenant. During his career in law enforcement, he worked with, supervised, or managed every element of the organization. He holds a bachelor of science degree in