Vatican Psychotropic Drug Conference

The Vatican hosted a conference on discussing the best treatments for psychologically distressed children and the moral implications of prescription drugs.

For two days at the Vatican, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry hosted an international meeting, The Child as Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared, to present and discuss professional’s findings and practices for dealing with disturbed, distressed or troubled children. Among these speakers one could find psychologists, councilors, pharmacologists, pediatricians, psychotherapists, social workers, ethicists and members of religious orders that are active in the field of healthcare.

Speakers present shared similar feelings on the topic, each stressing that “drugs shouldn’t be the first response to children’s problems.” Instead, they say that when children demonstrate behavioral problems, families and doctors should consider social and psychological support, rather than loading the child up with prescription drugs. However, there are numerous reasons behind this caution.

Psychotropic Drugs: Worth the Risks?

Not only do most prescribed drugs cause serious, potentially fatal, side effects, but many children suffer from behavioral problems due to stress, anxiety and other psychological causes. The Vatican launched an international investigation into psychiatric drugging of children, aiming to bring together professionals to educate people on the harmful consequences of prescription drugs for children to treat mental and emotional disorders.

The organizer of the event, Dr. Barry Duncan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Heart and Soul of Change Project, expressed the problems of child drugging in a 2010 meeting of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. He said that “the US leads the world in the number of psychiatric prescriptions to young people,” adding that the trend was also on the rise in Europe.

Primary Concerns with Psychotropic Drugs

Dr. Joana Moncrieff, a teacher in the department of mental health services at the University College London, said she was concerned about the “massive increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs over the past two decades.” She said that it is likely due to a basic misunderstanding about the nature of the drugs they are being prescribed.

“We are prescribing mind-altering substances to people to suppress and subdue their emotions and behaviors,” she said. She believes that the primary cause of this is the pharmaceutical industry, which many others, including Dr. Pat Bracken, have agreed on. Dr. Bracken, a psychiatrist from Cork Ireland, says that “a lot of companies made a lot of money out of this development.”

Other speakers were just as concerned with the epidemic of confusion surrounding psychotropic drugs, many stating that it’s from a number of reasons. Not only are the latest clinical trials 2-3 years behind the times, but it is difficult to gain access to the different risks and potential side effects, causing parents to be less informed and resulting in a vicious cycle.

Vatican Radio has extended interviews with Moncrieff and Bracken.

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