- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - For Cameron O’Malley, weekends at his sister’s house meant tucking a pair of jeans, a few shirts and his toothbrush into his backpack. The 15-year-old’s foster mom would zip a weekend’s worth of pills the size of jelly beans into plastic baggies.

Cameron and his sister Carissa, 22, knew the routine: Take daily with food.

Carissa didn’t like the medications, prescribed for a list of conditions she was not convinced Cameron even had: Prozac for his hyperactive attention disorder. Fluoxetine for depression. Strattera for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Wellbutrin for depression.

They made Cameron’s brain feel weird, like he was thinking in fog. But if the adoption was to go through, he and his sister had to follow the rules.

Nearly one in three foster children in Wyoming is prescribed psychotropic medications like the ones Cameron took. That’s four times the rate found in other low-income children not living in foster care, where the frequency is one in 12.

Critics say psychotropic drugs - any medication that affects a patient’s mood, thought or behavior - lack evidence as to their effectiveness and safety in children.

Many of the medications have not been studied in children, and doctors say they can’t assume what works on adults will be safe for children, whose central nervous systems are still developing.

Carissa believes state and medical officers rushed to use prescriptions to control Cameron, who acted out as a child.

“They want to put a diagnosis on everything,” she said.

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Cameron was a “lost” child in the middle of a large family, one social worker wrote in a 2011 report. His parents focused on the youngest of the family’s 12 children, giving little to no attention to the older kids, the worker wrote.

In reports filed with the Wyoming Department of Family Services between 2004 and 2011, doctors attributed Cameron’s conditions and behaviors to abuse and neglect he endured as a young boy.

His mother was charged with neglect, and Cameron left his biological family for good about 2010.

By 2011, he’d been diagnosed with ADHD, mild long-term depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. He had lived with foster families on five separate occasions.

Carissa didn’t like the medications, and she wasn’t alone.

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