Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychiatric Drugs Continued

More scary stuff:

What should be of greatest concern for Americans is the astonishing rise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in children, sometimes as young as two years old. These children are often treated with drugs that were never approved by the FDA for use in this age group and have serious side effects.

I believe that people should have the right to take drugs that the FDA has not approved. However, they should only do so with full knowledge of the risks, and knowledge of the fact that the government does not think it is safe. The existence of regulatory agencies often gives people a false sense of security. They assume that things are safe, instead of asking the questions they should.

But then, maybe they are making a rational calculation:

As low-income families experience growing economic hardship, many are finding that applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments on the basis of mental disability is the only way to survive. It is more generous than welfare, and it virtually ensures that the family will also qualify for Medicaid. According to MIT economics professor David Autor, "This has become the new welfare." Hospitals and state welfare agencies also have incentives to encourage uninsured families to apply for SSI payments, since hospitals will get paid and states will save money by shifting welfare costs to the federal government.
Growing numbers of for-profit firms specialize in helping poor families apply for SSI benefits. But to qualify nearly always requires that applicants, including children, be taking psychoactive drugs. According to a New York Times story, a Rutgers University study found that children from low-income families are four times as likely as privately insured children to receive antipsychotic medicines.

That first sentence is nonsense. People could survive without this government program, and the assertion that they cannot is incredibly insulting and misleading. But it is true that without these kinds of programs, people would have to reduce or alter their consumption and/or learn new skills and work harder. Nobody wants to do that, so they do what it takes to get the diagnosis. 

One of the mantras of public choice economics is "If you subsidize something, you get more of it." That is what we are seeing here. The government gives you money if your kids are on psychoactive drugs, so more people put their kids on psychoactive drugs.

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