Recently published research promises to use AI (artificial intelligence) to detect signs of depression and anxiety in kids. The mainstream media has been quick to herald these efforts as a hail-Mary for young children with mental health issues that often go unnoticed. But what the media neglects to mention is the fact that this technology is ripe for abuse by Big Pharma.
Millions of young children are already prescribed Big Pharma’s psych drugs, but the industry is bent on making sure every man, woman and child is on at least one type of pharmaceutical. Now, the pharma-medical industrial complex is teaming up to ensure no stone is left unturned — and no child is left un-drugged.
According to the researchers, their AI uses speech patterns to detect signs of depression and anxiety in children under the age of eight. The study, published in the Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, finds that AI can be used to diagnose these “internalizing disorders” in young kids who aren’t able to articulate their emotional suffering as well as older individuals.
The team says that enhanced diagnostic techniques will allow them to begin “treatment” sooner, and that this will yield better long-term outcomes. However, what that “treatment” entails is not disclosed.
In the United States, it’s estimated that over a million children under the age of six are on some kind of psychiatric drug. According to reports, the most common drug given to these young children is an anti-anxiety medication. Over 227,000 infants are being given an anti-anxiety medication. Another 248,000 children 4-to-5 years of age are also on drugs for “anxiety.”
Some doctors even believe these numbers are the low-end, noting that many healthcare professionals prescribe drugs for “off-label” purposes. Across the board, reports indicate that cases of pediatric anxiety are on the rise, having doubled in just the last five years.
And unfortunately, the number of kids being prescribed psychiatric medications is going up right along with it. There are substantial concerns about current prescribing practices — never mind what will happen once Big Pharma has AI technology on their side to foist medication onto every child that’s feeling down in the dumps.
Josh Gray, vice president of research at Athena Health, says that the increase in childhood anti-anxiety medication prescription is actually outpacing the rise in diagnoses. From 2013 to 2017, anxiety diagnoses in kids jumped from 1.9 percent to 4.4 percent. During that same time period, the number of prescriptions went up from 0.5 percent to 2.9 percent.
“For me, it’s not just this rise in anxiety diagnoses that’s interesting – it’s also this enormous relative increase in anti-anxiety prescriptions,” Gray comments.
“Are children really experiencing anxiety at higher rates, or is it that doctors are just more apt to diagnose it? And either way, why are doctors more likely to prescribe [anti-anxiety medication] for anxiety today than they were a few years ago?”
Gray asks a pertinent question, especially given the numerous reports of inappropriate prescribing. Some experts believe that at least half of all people on antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication aren’t actually responding to the drugs they’re on — and are actually just responding to the placebo effect.
In other words, experts believe most psychiatric medications don’t work for the prescribed patient. And in many cases, the patient might not need a drug at all. But doctors, even general physicians, are pretty quick to whip out their prescription pad for a quick fix.
Over-prescribing and inappropriate prescribing are already major problems in the medical community. The idea that healthcare professionals need AI to help them prescribe more drugs to kids is simply ludicrous.
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