What are psychotropic drugs?
Psychotropic drugs include:
- Antipsychotics (used in the treatment of schizophrenia and mania)
- Anti-depressants (tricyclics, SSRIs, MAOIs etc.)
- Anti-obsessive Agents
- Anti-anxiety Agents
- Anti-panic Agents
- Stimulants (used in the treatment of AD/HD)
Mental health remains highly stigmatized. While adults who need blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering medication and insulin can take their drugs without fear of judgement, making the decision to drug your child with psychotropic drugs is considered controversial.
What does this all have to do with children’s literature? Surely writers are steering clear of the topic. When was the last time you read a best-seller that said anything at all about your child’s AD/HD medication, for instance.
The Incorrect, Dominant Ideology Of AD/HD Drugs In Children’s Literature
Goes something like this:
When children are given AD/HD drugs they lose their creativity along with the very thing that makes them kids. ADHD drugs, if anything, *enhance* creativity by allowing the child some much-wanted brakes on the frontal cortex. The mistaken idea that ADHD drugs take away the wonderful things about ADHD kids mean that, especially in this country (Australia), ADHD drugs are less likely to end up where they’re needed.
There’s also this idea that AD/HD is what can happen to any of us if we’re not careful to exercise our brains, for example by reading long books. Here’s an example of that assumption, this time from an interview (with Ray Bradbury) in The Paris Review:
Why do you think you prefer short stories to novels? Is it an issue of patience? They call it attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder these days.
In fact AD/HD is a matter of different brain wiring. No one is correctly calling ‘short attention span’ attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. This idea goes completely unchallenged in The Paris Review literary magazine.
When it comes to children’s literature, there is also a fetishization of The Natural. This is seen in ‘country kids are more wholesome than city kids’, and extends (of course) to what adults are putting into their children’s bodies:
The wholesome fictional child eats natural, home-cooked, home-grown food, with eggs collected by hand-raised hens. The wholesome fictional child is naturally exuberant and energetic and should never be given chemicals in a capsule to dampen their wonderfully childlike spirit.
Related to that:
Children are naturally energetic. Many AD/HD children move a lot. Therefore, AD/HD children are the epitome of childlike and should be allowed to continue as they are.
An unchallenged assumption:
AD/HD children are always happy to be AD/HD and would not change a single thing about themselves, including the option to put some chemically induced brakes on their oftentimes embarrassing and humiliating impulsivity.