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FRONTLINE: The Medicated Child

Airs Friday, October 1, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Four-year-old DJ is currently taking a mixture of behavior-modifying medications.

Parent's Guide

This resource, written by child psychiatrist Joshua Sparrow, has been developed to support this documentary. It provides background on the issues associated with treating a child with psychiatric medications. The information provided can be a resource for parents, school guidance counselors and psychologists, pediatricians, social workers, special education professionals, classroom teachers and others involved in diagnosing and treating children with behavioral and emotional problems.

Ten years ago, stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall were the drugs of choice to treat behavioral issues in children. Today children as young as four years old are being prescribed more powerful anti-psychotic medications that are much less understood. The drugs can cause serious side effects, and virtually nothing is known about their long-term impact. The increase in the use of anti-psychotics is directly tied to the rising incidence of one particular diagnosis — bipolar disorder. Experts estimate that the number of kids with the diagnosis is now more than a million and rising.

As the debate over medicating children continues to grow, FRONTLINE producer Marcela Gaviria confronts psychiatrists, researchers and big pharma about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs for troubled children.

Watch the full program and explore a listing of frequently asked questions.

Video

Video Excerpt: Frontline: The Medicated Child

Above: With over four million children now on behavior modifying medications -- some starting as young as two years old -- FRONTLINE continues its investigation into the controversial practice of medicating kids. Are the drugs safe? How young can you detect mental illness in a child? Is medication really the answer? As the debate grows more fierce, FRONTLINE confronts psychiatrists, researchers and big pharma about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs for troubled children.

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