Empowering Parents with Facts about Psychotropic Drug Dependence and Documented Risks
My name is Mathy Milling Downing. I am a teacher, counselor, international child advocate, and a grieving mother who has experienced first-hand the tragedy of losing a child to a prescription drug. For the past 16 years, I have dedicated my time and effort to speaking out on national media and in many public forums, to help forewarn parents of the adverse side effects that can be caused by prescription psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs.
A little over a year ago, I read about a meeting taking place locally here in Maryland. It was hosted by SOUL, which stands for Surviving Our Ultimate Loss—a group which consists of families who have lost loved ones from opioid overdose. I was very interested in attending and speaking to these families, as the untimely and tragic loss of children and loved ones to prescription drugs is something that binds all of us who have shared in that horrific experience. My daughter, Candace, had not died from an opioid overdose. Instead, her death had been caused by a prescription antidepressant. I called the organization, explained who I was, and why I was interested in attending. I also told them about my involvement in the Know More About Drugs (KMAD) Alliance, which seeks to provide parents with pertinent information about prescription drug side effects and the risk of drug dependence, thereby giving parents the ability to make better educated, more informed decisions. With this as my goal, I was very interested in meeting with other like-minded groups and organizations.
After sharing my personal story, I was asked to come in early. The keynote speaker was a well-respected Superior Court judge who had lost her 22-year-old daughter and unborn granddaughter just months before to an opioid overdose. She had heard about my background and wanted to meet with me as she believed we had much in common. Her daughter, like mine, had been prescribed an antidepressant for anxiety at age 11. That prescription led to stronger drugs and eventually, an addiction to opioids. What began as a legally prescribed medication as a child, later led to self-prescribed medications obtained illegally. The judge’s daughter had desperately tried to wean herself from these deadly drugs to no avail. The drugs won. During the judge’s speech, she asked me to stand up and then told my story of loss—the death of my 12-year-old little girl to a prescription medication. I can still hear the gasps from the audience.
What began as a legally prescribed medication as a child, later led to self-prescribed medications obtained illegally.
Another speaker was a drug counselor, an ex-addict whose descent into drugs began when he was seven years old and was prescribed Ritalin by his pediatrician. This led to a series of multiple prescriptions. He stated that there had never been a time in his childhood when he was not on a cocktail of prescription drugs. That he survived an ordeal lasting more than two decades was a feat in itself. That he could take his pain and turn it around, sharing his addiction issues begun as a small boy, made me think about the information I had learned when I first joined the Know More About Drugs Alliance. It’s a fact that legally prescribed drugs are attributed to many addictions and overdose deaths in the United States. I learned this information from a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on U.S. drug overdose deaths.
The report cited that 10 of the top 15 drugs involved in U.S. drug overdoses were from prescription opioids and psychotropic drugs. All of these drugs can legally be prescribed to children.
This was quite shocking to me when I first read the report. It’s one thing to read about it, but another to witness the pain and suffering from families who actually lost children and loved ones. More often than not, the stories of addiction began in childhood with legally prescribed medications, which then led to addiction and a need for stronger and stronger drugs, and in many cases, ending in death. To be in a room packed with families, loved ones, those suffering loss, and those on the verge of not surviving, was a very powerful experience.
More often than not, the stories of addiction began in childhood with legally prescribed medications, which then led to addiction and a need for stronger and stronger drugs, in many cases ending in death.
It is for families such as these, that I continue to bring awareness of the dangers of psychotropic drugs and prescribed opioids. Parents must be warned about every drug that can lead to drug dependence. The FDA’s Medication Guides, which the Know More About Drugs Alliance promotes on their website, empower parents with these very important life-saving facts. I strongly advise that this outstanding website be read and utilized by any parent considering medications for their child. Know the facts. It could save a life.