Deciding to try medication or not - advice?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Louise232, Feb 20, 2018.

  1. Louise232

    Louise232 New Member

    Hi, can anyone weigh in on their decision to start medication for their child? We have finally seen a psychiatrist and an SSRI (Zoloft) was recommended for my 11-year-old. Irritability and frustration are a challenge for him daily, but we've made it this long without medications.. and I am very afraid of the potential side effects (reading a lot of negative info online). Then again, it seems it could be a big help to him, and he certainly doesn't want to be melting down so often.. but is it worth the risk? How did you decide? thank you!
  2. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    Hi Louise-

    I think it depends on the diagnosis, your child and the medication they are suggesting. Medication can be lifesaving. But medicine can also have unintended consequences. I think if you could be a little more specific it would really help. For example, one of my children has bipolar disorder and we are medicating him, but these medicines are very powerful and can have side effects. He still needs them to function. My other son may have depression. Still trying to work that out. Would I medicate him? I'm not sure. I would probably wait to see how much the depression impacts his functioning. I take medication for depression myself and it's been a lifesaver. But with children you do need to take care.
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  3. Background Info: Adopted son at age 20months old from Russia. Adopted from a nice/clean orphanage. Before medications as a young child (5-8yrs old) he was afraid to play outside without me. He constantly had to know where I was. I can't tell you how many times I bumped into this kid because he was literally "on my heels".

    He is now 17yo and has been on Zoloft for anxiety and ADHD medications since age 9. I thought he was just a naughty boy with anger issues. I hesitated on medications and looking back I wish I had started sooner. The poor guy was holding it together all day at school and would come home and explode. The littlest of things such as "it's your brother's turn to sit up front or push the elevator button" would create a meltdown.

    He went through a 2-day day testing process at the University hospitals and I felt confident in their diagnosis. The medications have changed his life and our family's. When he forgets to take them we know it! Life is much more enjoyable for him. After he started the medications he was able to cope so much better. It was not a "cure" but his outbursts were much more manageable, occurred less often, and he was able to communicate his feelings after he had calmed down.

    He is now 17. Rarely has meltdowns. If he does, it's stress related (such as school). I work with him to take deep breaths, hug him a lot and rub his back. Once he settles down we are able to talk things through. I never thought I would enjoy this kid so much! He is turning into a very considerate, level headed, young man and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him!

    I think it's great you are weighing all of the options! Go with your gut and as the previous person mentioned, medication can be life saving. It was for ALL of us! Good luck!
  4. Baggy Bags

    Baggy Bags Active Member

    I'm about as radically against western medicine as a person can be. Don't even keep aspirin in the house. But, ironically, my son is on an anti-psychotic. I accepted/decided because it was too big a risk not to do it. The medications help him with his impulsivity and intolerance to frustration. This means that it helps prevent him from running away or committing suicide. I don't know if this helps you at all, just saying, it depends what you're up against, how much more you can take without the help of chemicals. If it hadn't been a life or death situation for us, we would have kept on trying other things. Maybe weigh the risks with and without the medicine - side effects vs. the effects of your child's disorder.
  5. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    My daughter was 9 when she started on ADHD medications. I had tried everything else I could think of, and believe me, something had to change. medications made a world of difference for her, on the positive side.

    My Hubby also has ADHD, so when he was diagnosed (at age 40), we figured there would be no problem. Protocol had changed, and he had to start on Strattera. It was not a good fit for someone who had already been diagnosed unipolar depressive. By not a good fit, I mean hell on earth. Longest month EVER. Once he got on stimulants, he did very well, finished college, and has a great job.

    It's a matter of finding the right medication for you (or your son). Sometimes the first one works, sometimes the fourth or fifth or even sixth one does. He is old enough to let you know how he feels. I kept a spreadsheet of dates, dosage, and behaviors (crying, fighting, hiding in room) any time we started a new medication, both for the doctors and for me.
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think the decision to medicate or not to medicate is incredibly individual. We put my oldest son on medication for adhd when he was 7. We started on a weekend. It was ritalin, a medication that had a short amount of time in the body. We would know if it worked right away and if it did not, it would be out of him before bedtime. The worst it could do was give him more energy (which would be astounding as he was NEVER still!). It was a true miracle for him. He went to a soccer game and every single parent there - even the ones on the other team - all noticed a huge change. He paid attention, he stayed where he was supposed to be, he was just a calmer and more focused kid. WIthin a couple of years he was on quite a bit more medication. We always listened to how he felt while he was on the medication. The decision to stop or change medications was never his, but his input was always sought and weighed heavily. I honestly believe he would have looked for street drugs if we had not medicated him.

    At one point we tried medication when my daughter had a hard time. We stopped that very quickly. Her body did not process them well. Not medication for depression.

    Who has evaluated your child? How confident are you in the diagnosis? If you try the medication and it doesn't work well, you can stop them. That is what we did with my daughter. You might want to ask for more in depth testing to get to the root of the irritability and frustration. I would ask for a referral to a neuropsychologist (a psychologist with specialized training in the brain). They do testing that can pinpoint a wide range of problems and can help you decide what medications, if any, could help. It might make your decision easier.
  7. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    KT we also use a mood chart to keep track. It actually has been invaluable and I highly recommend it as a tool.
  8. Louise232

    Louise232 New Member

    Thank you all very much for your replies - it is very helpful. He has been evaluated by a neuropsychologist twice - most recent was almost a year ago. We really aren't confident in any of the various diagnoses he's received over the years, so it's more a matter of treating the symptoms at this point since nothing seems to quite match.
  9. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    Louise in the end that's really all that you're doing anyway---treating the symptoms. That said, having a clear understanding of the diagnosis can save you some heart ache. I.e. if he's bipolar you wouldn't want to give him an SSRI because it could make things worse. But that is just one example. Best of luck to you and him <3
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Another very powerful tool is the Parent Report. I found it to be incredibly powerful, especially as treatment got more complicated with medication and doctors. What is it? A report that you write that tells everything about your child - and I mean EVERYTHING! Parents here long before me came up with it and it is really complete. I did find having a photo at the beginning of every section to be helpful (I used the same photo so that I didn't confuse the doctors). It reminded the doctors who they were reading about. You can get to the thread with the outline for the Parent Report from the link in my signature at the bottom of this post.

    The report is especially useful when you use medications. You can keep medications and side effects at your fingertips. Often you remember them better than the doctors, but just telling a doctor often doesn't carry as much weight as having it in black and white. Why? Who the heck knows. I had a few docs who would get quite upset with me when I would refuse to "try" a medication on my son when I knew it had given him bad side effects in the past. It gave me a reputation of being uncooperative, which I found to be ludicrous. If I had given him a medication that I knew made him very ill (one gave him breathing problems!!!), they probably would have reported me to CPS and investigated me. Being able to show the doctor a paper with the name of the medication and the side effects written down somehow made the side effects legitimate for some doctors, as if I couldn't have made them up, as if I wasn't the one who typed the paper! (This was before tablets.) It just made things so much easier to have it all written down.

    I even gave the doctors copies of sections that were relevant to the things they were treating my son for. I always had a copy or 2 of the report with me at reports and IEPS and things. I found that it looked intimidating at the IEPs, if nothing else. Heck, it was often me against 10 or more people at those things, I would do whatever I could, LOL!

    The report really did make a HUGE difference. Now you could even include video if you wanted to. Especially if you could take it without your child noticing. That can be super helpful to a doctor making a diagnosis. Sometimes seeing a mood change can be HUGE, or seeing the difference in behavior after a mood changes. Just a thought.

    Medication is really a personal thing. I will say that without medication, my son would never have been able to cope. He is still on his medications, by choice. He says he likes himself on his medications. He has unipolar depression, which is incredibly rare. His psychiatrist says he only has a handful of patients with this diagnosis, because most patients go into at least a mixed state. His doctor, who I have never met, interviewed my parents and Wiz and read the Parent Report carefully before continuing Wiz' medications. Wiz was living with my parents by that point, and Wiz didn't think I needed to meet his doctor. He was stable and almost 18 by then, and I was fine with it. He had never gone manic and had been on many antidepressants before. It took a combination of 3 of them to really pull him into functionality. Yes, 3 antidepressants. One treats ADHD. One is for sleep. One is for depression. The 2 not for depression also work on his depression. They are just also effective on other things. It is very hard to find the right medications.

    Has the doctor told you that the SSRI/SNRI antidepressants can trigger mania and other very serious side effects in children? To the point that there is a Black Box warning on the box, issued by the FDA? Not every child gets these. My son did not. My daughter led her class in a conga line when the teacher told them to sit down to do a lesson. She was the quiet one who ALWAYS followed directions until then. She didn't get in trouble, but they did call me up to school. Her teacher knew about the medications, and the reason why (her brother tried to kill her), and they thought it was truly sweet and funny to see her get all the kids into a conga line dancing. Only Jess. :p

    She didn't take another dose of the medications after that. She hasn't had any need for them. Now that she is an adult, I would have no problem with her trialing antidepressants if she needed them. Children just don't react to medications the way adults do.

    I don't tell you this to scare you away from medications. I told you to illustrate how different 2 kids in the same family can react to the same medication. Wiz actually took the same medication for years at the age that Jess took it and he never had a problem with it. It helped him greatly. You just don't know without trying. A short term trial is the only way to know if it will help or not.

    You can ask the psychiatrist about a DNA test to find out which antidepressant is the most likely to work. Those were not available for us, but they are available now. Insurance covers them most of the time, I believe. Check to be sure, of course, but it could save a lot of time and trial/error. The test will not tell you how he will react. It will tell you which kind will be best for him, and which won't work for him.