The Medicated Child
In recent years, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of children being diagnosed with serious
psychiatric disorders and prescribed medications that are just beginning to be tested in children. The drugs can
cause serious side effects, and virtually nothing is known about their long-term impact. "It's really to some extent
an experiment, trying medications in these children of this age," child psychiatrist Dr. Patrick Bacon tells
FRONTLINE. "It's a gamble.And I tell parents there's no way to know what's going to work."
In The Medicated Child, FRONTLINE producer Marcela Gaviria confronts psychiatrists, researchers and
government regulators about the risks, benefits and many questions surrounding prescription drugs for troubled
children. The biggest current controversy surrounds the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Formerly called manic
depression, bipolar disorder was long believed to exist only in adults. But in the mid-1990s, bipolar in children
began to be diagnosed at much higher rates, sometimes in kids as young as 4 years old. "The rates of bipolar
diagnoses in children have increased markedly in many communities over the last five to seven years," says Dr.
Steven Hyman, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health. "I think the real question is, are
those diagnoses right? And in truth, I don't think we yet know the answer."
Like many of the 1 million children now diagnosed with bipolar, 5-year-old Jacob Solomon was initially
believed to suffer from an attention deficit disorder. His parents reluctantly started him on Ritalin, but over the
next five years, Jacob would be put on one drug after another. "It all started to feel out of control," Jacob's father,
Ron, told FRONTLINE. "Nobody ever said we can work with this through therapy and things like that.
Everywhere we looked it was, 'Take meds,