You might be shocked to learn that overmedication isn’t just a problem affecting the elderly or those with chronic illnesses; it’s hitting our foster youth hard. And don’t mistake this for a minor issue: It’s a hidden crisis that requires immediate attention. From my perspective as a high school coach, I’ve seen student-athletes struggle with the consequences of overmedication, which affects not just their performance but also their mental and emotional well-being. And this is not a crisis confined to any one country; it’s a global issue that resonates even here in South Africa.

In the foster care system, youth are often given medication as a quick-fix solution to manage behavioral issues or emotional distress. You should know that many of these kids are on multiple medications at once, a practice known as polypharmacy. What’s even more disconcerting is that some of these medications are psychotropic drugs with powerful side effects, ranging from weight gain and lethargy to more serious complications like an increased risk of suicide. The use of medication as a first resort rather than a last is alarming, especially when non-pharmaceutical interventions are often not even tried.

Now, consider this in the South African context, where access to quality healthcare is already a pressing issue. The system is overwhelmed, and quick fixes are often sought. But when it comes to our foster youth, who already have to navigate a labyrinth of emotional and social challenges, the easy way out is turning into a dangerous path. It’s not just a personal crisis; it’s a societal issue that affects us all. The more we medicalize natural emotional responses, the more we are sending the message that the solution to your problems lies at the bottom of a pill bottle.

You might be asking, “What can we do about it?” Well, the first step is acknowledging the problem. The second is seeking alternative ways to treat emotional and behavioral issues. Exercise, nutrition, and psychological counseling are often equally effective, if not more so, than medication. This is where schools, communities, and even sports teams can play a role. As a high school coach, for instance, physical activity is a tool I can use to help manage stress and emotional challenges among the youth I interact with.

This issue may seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be insurmountable. As the famous South African saying goes, “A burden shared is a burden halved.” It’s time for a collective push toward recognizing the overmedication of our foster youth as a real and pressing issue, deserving of more than just a quick pharmaceutical fix. Let’s share the burden and find a better way.

You may find it intriguing that the last two articles on “The Overmedication of Foster Youth: A Hidden Crisis” present divergent viewpoints on this serious issue. One argues that medication, particularly psychotropic drugs, are being prescribed as a quick and easy solution to complex behavioral and emotional problems among foster youth. The other contends that some level of medication is necessary due to the severe trauma that many of these young people have experienced.

When you look at the South African context, both perspectives offer valuable insights. The healthcare system here is already overwhelmed, which means quick fixes like medication are often the go-to solution, just as one article suggests. This could potentially exacerbate the crisis, given that non-pharmaceutical interventions might be overlooked or underutilized. On the other hand, given the high levels of trauma and psychological distress that are unfortunately all too common among South African youth, especially in impoverished or unstable environments, the argument for some level of medication becomes compelling. But, even in such cases, you’d have to agree that oversight and regular evaluation are crucial to ensuring that the medication does more good than harm.

Both articles acknowledge the complexity of this issue, which isn’t as black and white as it may seem. Medication may be a necessity for some but may also be a convenient but risky route for others. The point is to strike a balance that provides foster youth with the most effective and humane treatment available. And this isn’t just a healthcare issue; it’s a societal one that affects communities, schools, and families. In a country like South Africa, where resources are limited and social issues are complex, you can see how the crisis becomes even more convoluted.

To sum it up, as Nelson Mandela once said, “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.” The overmedication of foster youth is more than a medical issue; it’s a reflection of societal values. Finding the right approach will require nuanced understanding and collaborative effort, which considers both the limitations and the potential of the South African healthcare system and society at large.