Many youths incarcerated in juvenile facilities are getting potent anti-psychotic drugs intended for bipolar or schizophrenic patients, even when they have not been diagnosed with either disorder, reports Youth Today. State juvenile systems answered a survey on their use of these anti-psychotics - called "atypicals." Only 16 states responded, meaning that a majority of states either would not or could not demonstrate that they were even monitoring the use of these medications on incarcerated juveniles
The atypical anti-psychotics were being used to treat a wide variety of diagnoses, including intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and even the more common attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Critics believe most of these diagnoses are simply a cover for the fact that prisons now use drugs as a substitute for banned physical restraints that once were used on juveniles who aggressively acted out. "Fifty years ago, we were tying kids up with leather straps, but now that offends people, so instead we drug them," says Robert Jacobs, a former Florida psychologist and lawyer who now practices psychology in Australia. "We cover it up with some justification that there is some medical reason, which there is not." Supporters of prescribing the atypicals believe using the drugs as sedation isn't necessarily bad. "It prepares youth so they can respond to treatment," says LeAdelle Phelps, a former juvenile facility director and adolescent psychologist. "By reducing aggression and by having calming, soothing effects," the anti-psychotic makes residents "more malleable."