If there’s one thing that really scares me about my generation it’s our reliance on medication. Or maybe reliance is the wrong word. Maybe I mean using it as a substitute or a panacea. The older I get the more I become aware of how dependent we have become on products, pills and creams. To be clear, I’ve turned to Adderall, Zoloft, Benadryl, Motrin and more to deal with a variety of ills. I’m neither pharmaphobic nor a naturalist. But I look around at my friends and their kids, and everyone’s on something.
The scary questions that plague me at 4 am are these: is there more anxiety than when I was a kid? If so, why? Is there more autism, ADHD? Does using meds ultimately help or hinder? What will the next generation discover about these ills and our pill-pushing that we’ll wish we would have known?
I worry about some doctors diagnosing symptoms and not asking about causes. Treating symptoms and not causes. Why is this? If I present with a strange rash, a doctor will typically look at it, ask a few questions, and prescribe a cream to eradicate it. But I know that I get eczema when stressed. The eczema is not the problem. The stress is.
But who is asking me if I’m stressed? My doctor is not. And what would he or she do with that information anyway? Doctors can’t eliminate stress. So, is a pill to remove symptoms of undiagnosed stress truly helpful?
Are causes too hard to uncover? I believe we are still in our infancy with mental health. Autism, while the diagnosis certainly helps me obtain valuable services, is merely a way of saying that many people, for many different reasons, have a collection of sometimes-similar symptoms. Autistic symptoms – ranging from the non-verbal variety to Einstein-flavored Asperger’s – can arise from genetics, trauma during childbirth, or a hundred other unknowns. So autism is not so much a diagnosis as a description.
The anxiety associated with autism, then, is the child’s way of coping with the universe. Pills are important and pills can help, but are we asking the right questions? As a mother I’ve been terrified of scary symptoms. I’ve evolved from that mom who said “I’m not medicating my kid to behave” and quickly morphed to “Doc, should we raise the dosage?” Now I’m asking this: “Are we a generation that can’t function without pills?”
In my deepest heart I am terrified of CVS, of the pills we pump into ourselves and our kids every day. And I am also the first to pop an Advil for the merest whisper of a headache.
So are we the weakest generation, for being unable to tolerate pain without pills? Or the strongest, for admitting we need help?