One Psychologist’s Take on the Danes and Medication

I’ve never seen an official document outlining the Danes’ policy towards medication, but as an ex-pat, with experiences in both the US and Denmark (both provider and consumer), I imagine it to read something like this:  “We Danes believe that less medication is better”.  It’s probably a little more polished than that, but nevertheless, there is a lore, among ex-pats, that obtaining antibiotics is difficult, for example.  Many-a-sinus infection have we suffered through, at the mercy of the conservative Danish health system.  Similarly, there is some lore that obtaining certain psychiatric medications is difficult.  I have heard one or two doctors brag about the Danes’ supposed resilience against various illnesses, seeming to ascribe the resilience to their restraint with antibiotics.  Perhaps this is empirically true.  I have not seen the data.

Concerta, a medication commonly used for
ADHD in the US, is not available in Denmark


Though I don’t necessarily agree with the amount of prescribing I have witnesses in the US, I think we should be clear and informed about the dangers of UNDER-prescribing, by psychiatrists.  One doesn’t hear of this so much in the media, as one hears about overprescribing.  A child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, for example, runs the risk of what we call secondary symptoms as a result of not having enough medication.

Secondary symptoms can be thought of as symptoms that are a result of having a primary condition.   In the medical world, for example, long term problems with obesity can lead to secondary diabetes.  When failure to treat an underlying condition results in the development of other symptoms, we say that those conditions are secondary.

Kids who interrupt, have problems with impulsivity, attention and the like, are more subject to being bullied by their peers.  Children with ADHD or ADD, more likely than their peers to be called “stupid” and “lazy” by their teachers and parents.  Constant messages such as these, of course lead to poorer self-esteem, and other negative outcomes.   Yet negative stereotypes in the media about medication have led to some parents feelings guilty for choosing to allow their child to take prescription medications.

No one, not even your doctor, has the perfect answer for you or your child.  Carefully consider all options, and all potential consequences whether you decide to medicate, or not.  Let’s not be too quick to throw the “medication baby out with the bathwater.”


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