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Summer Camp Is Home To The New Drug War
July 19, 2006
by Tony Zizza

There are several "political" reasons why I will never purchase a copy of the New York Times. I would much rather save all those quarters throughout the year and buy myself another Ann Coulter book.

However, I came accross a New York Times article reprinted in the July 16th Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper that made me hopping mad. Fuming. Livid. Completely and utterly - pissed. But, interestingly enough, not surprised in the least.

That is, "a quarter to half of campers now take prescription medicines." This according to a shocking New York Times article by Jane Gross titled, "Checklist for camp: Bug spray. Sunscreen. Meds." Years ago, we lost our adult heart and soul when we became something of a Prozac Nation. It was "in" to be "on" psych drugs. We now have betrayed our children when we send them off, to all places, summer camp - with psych meds. Sure, a good deal of meds are for asthma and allergies. Unfortunately, it's a confirmed fact of reality that we are indeed a nation under medication. Is this what we want for our children?

How sad that at summer camp children line up to take their meds much like they do for their daily grub. Nurses seem to see no difference in handing a child Zoloft or Strattera than they would meds for allergies, or even a vitamin. All this in the name of not even trying to protect children from the alleged stigma of mental illness. You see, herein lies the problem. It's a big one.

The main problem is diagnosing children with alleged mental disorders in the first place. Where is the debate? Where is the outrage? Where is the skepticism? Where is, and whatever happened to, our heart and soul for crying out loud? Are some adults such lousy parents by choice that they cannot even allow their own flesh and blood to go to summer camp - mentally unmedicated?

Summer camp used to be a place for children to internally and externally spread their wings, maybe for the first time away from home. A shy child may have found a way with inner strength and some luck to come out of their shell. To stand up for themselves. To realize the importance of both individualism and team work. To find a way to work on their personalities. To grow up a little bit.

Everything has changed now, and I find it very sad. As much as we associate singing, bonfires, and building tents with summer camp, we also associate summer camp with attention deficit disorder, psychiatric problems and mood disorders. Why do we seem to want it this way? Our innocence is lost. Gone. Smoke in the clouds. Summer camp is now home to the new drug war. We all laughed a bit when Nancy Reagan told us to Just Say No. No one should be laughing now that we foolishly believe pharmaceutical companies should be the ones essentially parenting our children, rather than ourselves.

Sorry, but by agreeing with a subjective and consensus-driven psychiatric label for your child such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and subsequent drugging for an unknown period of time, you have really failed as a parent. In fact, this failure has created an alleged business need in our communities. Supposedly, we're too stupid to give our own children their meds in the proper dosage and proper quantity. Maybe we're too busy trying to get our children enrolled in special ed so perhaps they can obtain a waiver to having to pass basic skills testing. Gosh, the No Child Left Behind Act is so mean. And I thought GlaxoKlineSmith and Novartis were the real meanies as far as our children's "brains" are concerned.

Anyway, enter CampMeds. This is a company that services camps accross the country. According to the New York Times, "CampMeds distributes pills in shrink-wrapped packets marked with name, date and time. Camp nurses simply tear each packet along the dotted line, sparing them the labor-intensive task of counting pills and reducing the risk of error." Furthermore, "Figuring out how to distribute all this medicine has taken some trial and error, beginning with supervision by the nurses, who watch the children take their pills."

Oh, isn't this lovely? Isn't this enough to make you want to vomit? How low can we go in allowing our children to be drugged for alleged mental disorders? Why can't children "be children" at a place called summer camp without being treated like lab rats? We should be asking our elected officials how they can allow the future of our country (our children) to be sacrificed to the alter of psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies. Just as it is criminal for school officials to force parents to put their children on psych meds as a condition of attending school, it is equally criminal for parents to go along with the psychiatric labeling/drugging of their children because it "feels" like an appropriate parenting decision to make. Really? At whose expense? For what purpose?

The New York Times quoted an American Camp Association chief executive officer who stated a quarter of their 3 million campers are medicated with psych drugs. I believe the number of drugged campers is higher. Happy summer, huh? Again, our innocence has vanished like the risk of a thunderstorm on a hot July day in Phoenix. We used to worry about our children taking drugs if they didn't attend summer camp. Now, we are at a sick place in time when undrugged campers may feel out of place with all the campers from every walk of life who are drugged 24/7.

It appears the labeling and drugging of our children is a national security risk that should be taken as seriously as terrorism. Forget appeasement. Appeasement won't work. It never has. Let's commit to a complete change in thinking about how depressed and socially anxious we "think" our children really are. A good dose of healthy parenting is better than a dose of Zoloft or Strattera. Come on, give it a shot.

Or do you actually think children are mentally and physically better off on Zoloft or Strattera, even at an innocent and maturing place called - summer camp?

Tony Zizza serves as the Vice President of the State of Georgia for the nonprofit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education Read Zizza's "Think Twice" column there.

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