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Review of "Helping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional Problems"

By Mina K. Dulcan and Claudia Lizarralde (editors)
American Psychiatric Press, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 5th 2003
Helping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional Problems

This resource book is a collection of handouts about psychotropic medications for doctors to give out. It is in three sections, for Parents, Youth, and Teachers. Those sections have 15, 9, and 14 handouts respectively. The handouts for parents and teachers are the most detailed with three to five pages each, and they contain basically the same information with some small differences that reflect the different roles of parents and teachers. The handouts for parents are on antianxiety medications (the benzodiazepines and Buspar), anticonvulsants, anti-histamines, beta-blockers, Catapres and Tenex, Desyrel and Serzone, Effexor, lithium, neuroleptics and similar medications, Remeron, SSRIs, stimulants, tricyclic antidepressants, and Wellbutrin. The handouts for teachers are on the same medications, except that they do not include one on Remeron. The handouts for youth lump the different medications together so reducing the total number of handouts -- for example, the SSRI and atypical antidepressants are discussed together.

For parents and teachers, the handouts have the same sections. At the top of the first page are spaces for the youth's name, the doctor's name, the medication, and who to call with questions about the medication. Then there is "General Information About Medication" which is the same for all the medications, followed by sections with a brief description of the particular medication and very simple (and even simplistic) short explanations of how the medications can help and how they work, which are relatively uninformative. More useful are sections on "How Will the Doctor Monitor These Medicines?," "What Side Effects Can These Medicines Have?" and "What Could Happen if These Medicines are Stopped Suddenly?" These provide important information about what to expect and what to avoid doing. There are two final sections: one on "How Long Will These Medicines Be Needed?" which tend to simply say that it is hard to tell, and "What Else Should I Know About These Medicines?" which includes information on common misconceptions, drug interactions, and other dangers. These handouts are written in very clear language and will address most of the concerns of parents and teachers, even if the explanations may not satisfy all of them.

The handouts for youth are slightly shorter and have different sections. At the top of the first page are spaces for the doctor's name and the medication, followed by a short explanation of "Why You Are Taking This Medicine." Following this are sections on "What the Medicine Is Called and How You Take It," "How Your Doctor Will Follow Your Progress," "How the Medicine Will Make You Feel," "What Could Happen if These Medicines Are Stopped Suddenly?" and "How to Explain Your Medicine to Others." These handouts are written clearly and should be understandable by most teenagers and even some pre-teens if they have strong reading skills. The handouts would not be appropriate for young children.

The book is accompanied by a CD-ROM, which contains all the handouts in Adobe Acrobat form so it will be easy to print them out as needed. The book is spiral-bound and so it should also be easy to photocopy the handouts.

How helpful these handouts could actually be will depend a great deal on the individuals using them. Some families already have books explaining prescription drugs, such as simplified versions of the Physicians' Desk Reference, and most of the information here will already be available in such books. The information is also readily available on a number of Internet web sites. However, not all people are comfortable using those sources of information, and often people leave doctor's offices with a prescription after a short consultation with only a very slim grasp of what the medication will actually do. These handouts should be useful for some people, and reading through them may encourage parents, children and teachers to seek out more thorough explanations.

© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.† His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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