An investigative report found that New Orleans juvenile detention centers are giving the kids potent antipsychotics four times as often as the conditions for which they were designed to treat, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, actually show up in the inmate population. People inside the system say the jails are dosing the kids because it’s easier to deal with them when they’re “little zombies.”
Reporters at The Lens asked eight juvenile detention facilities for their records showing how many of their inmates had received mental health diagnoses, what the diagnoses were, and what prescription meds were the kids getting. The results were startling.
22% of the medications given were for antipsychotics that are prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, only 5% of the diagnoses made available to The Lens were for bipolar disorder, and zero for schizophrenia. The kids are being given powerful mind-altering pills, even though they haven’t been given a diagnosis for the disorders the medications are intended.
“There are some youth who should receive medications who aren’t,” Will Harrell, a federal monitor of juvenile justice systems, told The Lens. “But there’s also kids who are being medically restrained. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with disruptive kids by drugging them, than doing anything else.”
“We had one kid come to us on three different psychotropic drugs,” Cedric Morton, a former worker at a residential treatment facility for children, told The Lens. “He would be slobbering from the mouth from 8 a.m to 2 p.m and then take more medication at 3 p.m. This kid was a zombie and because he was a ward of the state, he didn’t have strong advocates outside who would push for him to get off the drugs.”
It’s no longer socially palatable to tie problem kids down with straps, so we’re doing it with drugs.
Overmedicating young inmates called chemical restraint [The Lens]
Psych Meds In Jails [Youth Today]