Garth George: Kids need dose of better parenting

Bay of Plenty Times 2 July 2012
First it was children; now it’s pets: Less than perfect behaviours are being labelled as diseases.

An article from the London Daily Telegraph published this week tells us that seemingly natural behaviour in a dog – barking at strangers, cowering from fireworks, howling when left alone – is being put down to a range of psychiatric diagnoses such as “hyperactivity”, “phobic behaviour” and “separation anxiety”.

It says a study has found that eight out of 10 dogs now exhibit such conditions, with vets warning of similar behavioural problems emerging in cats, rabbits and even parrots.

Other conditions being treated by vets, the article says, include sleeping problems, anxiety, anorexia, “self-mutilation”, stress and depression; and that the research comes ahead of the launch of a new Prozac-style drug for pets which is expected to be available in Britain later this year.

I experienced a strong sense of deja vu when I read this article, harking back to the days when psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians, unable to find any answers to increasing child misbehaviour problems, invented complaints such as ADHD and promptly began prescribing drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac.

And today, according to a press report late last year, concern is being expressed that the number of children and teenagers taking Prozac-style anti-depressants, commonly known as happy pills, has soared to almost 11,000, in spite of medical safety warnings that young people using the drugs are more likely to think or act in a suicidal way.

Figures showed prescriptions of antidepressants to under-18-year-olds increased by 31 per cent in four years, from 8332 in 2006 to 10,941 in 2010 and, in 2009, 1855 prescriptions were written for children under 13, a 20 per cent increase from 2006.

As Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First NZ, said at the time: “… we may be just drugging kids up to mask the real issues of the effects of food additives, sleep deprivation, family breakdown and stress, lack of discipline, and under-stimulation for bright children.

“Doctors are under pressure for a quick fix, when counselling, better diet, firm discipline and a decent sleep pattern would be better.”