As Labor Day approaches, it's time to look back on our favorite summer memories: family vacations, cookouts, days at the beach... children being plied with powerful pharmaceuticals.
When my 15 year-old daughter returned home from sleep-away camp this summer and began recounting her typical day, I was surprised to learn that it started not with swimming or camping or arts and crafts -- or even breakfast -- but rather with her fellow campers lining up to get their "morning meds."
That's right, popping prescription pills for attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders has become standard operating procedure at camps all across America -- as much a part of the summertime ritual as campfires, color wars, and "I wanna come home" letters.
According to one trade group representing 2,600 camps and 3 million campers (yes, even Camp Poison Ivy now has a lobbyist!), roughly a quarter of the kids at its camps are taking regular doses of psychopharmacologic drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Straterra (ADD/ADHD), Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft (anxiety and depression), and Clonidine, Lexapro, and Risperdal (mood disorders).
Of course, this pill-popping phenomenon is not just a part of summer vacation -- but rather an extension of the epidemic of legal drugs being prescribed to America's children. We now have over a million kids on Prozac and its equivalents and more than seven million on Ritalin.
During the school year, most kids take their meds at home -- so it's not as noticeable. But at camp, it's harder to hide. Then again, so many kids are now being given drugs it's become no big deal. As reported by the New York Times, some camps divvy out the drugs in their mess halls, others do it in the infirmary. One camp in Copake, New York has built a special medication wing where kids hang out waiting to get dosed. "You going to archery?" "Later; first I'm getting my midday antipsychotic."
Dispensing prescription medications to campers has become such a regular part of the summer camp experience that one company, CampMeds, was created to help beleaguered camp nurses keep all the different drug combos straight. CampMeds ships an entire summer's worth of prepackaged pills to member camps with each child's Rx regime contained in shrink-wrapped packets marked with a name, date, and time. The better to dose you with, my dear.
"This is the American standard now," says one camp owner. More's the pity.
"Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda" has now become "Hello Druggist, Hello MD." With apologies to Alan Sherman:
Here I am at
Camp Poison Ivy
Camp is very
And they say we'll all have fun if we take our Wellbutrin.