Xanax 'Better Mom': Can Drug Lead To Better Parenting?

By Jason Van Hoven on February 19, 2013 9:52 AM EST

Xanax
Could just 0.5 mg of Xanax legitimately turn a dad into a better dad and a mom into a better mom? (Photo: webmd.com)

Can Xanax make a mom a "better mom"?

Well, according to Parenting.com via CNN, Hope Chanda, a mother of twin 6-year-old boys, who suffers from panic attacks, yes.

Taking such meds as Xanax to increase emotional tolerance -- which Chanda believes makes her a "better mom" -- all adds up to Generation Medication, which as an analysis by Express Scripts explains, includes more than one in five American adults now taking at least one type of medication to treat a psychological or behavioral disorder. This represents a 22 percent rise since 2001. Specifically, the number of women taking antidepressants grew 29 percent between 2001 and 2010, while, during that same time period, ADHD drug use among women jumped a whopping 264 percent.

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However, there has been little talk revolving around depression and anxiety that focuses on parents, which is surprising, considering that their mental well-being has a significant effect on children

"Depression ... can have serious biological, psychological, behavioral, and social consequences, especially on children who rely on a parent for caregiving, support, and nurturance," according to "Depression in Parents, Parenting and Children," published in 2009 by the National Research Council.

Depression is associated with poorer physical health, especially in infants, difficult temperament and aggression, lower cognitive performance and higher rates of anxiety and depression. Given that 16 million children are living in households with a depressed parent, there are an enormous number of young lives at stake.

Chanda of Melbourne, Fla., has experienced panic attacks -- tightening in the chest, pressure on the rib cage, shortness of breath -- that wake her up in the middle of the night. Every time one attack occurs, she feels "like I'm going to die."

For the past two years, Chanda and her husband Joe have been trying to get pregnant. To do so, Chanda has had six rounds of fertility shots and has gone through three cycles of the fertility drug Clomid.

But, toughest of all, Chanda experienced two miscarriages.

"All the hormones made me crazy," she said. "After the second miscarriage, it all came out. I had this feeling that something was really wrong."

Chanda said that she didn't want to end up like her mother, who was hospitalized for anxiety issues when Chanda was 10. So, after panic attacks became just too much to bear at some point, Chanda talked to her family doctor. Now, she takes half a milligram of Xanax twice a day and 20 milligrams of Celexa at night.

"It helps me be a better mom," Chanda said. "I look forward to taking my medication. I'm more flexible, tolerant and rational. Before, when the kids were being a problem, I would get frustrated and yell immediately. Now, we work through the problem."

Allan Horwitz, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and author of "The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sadness Into Depressive Disorder," believes both mothers and fathers use meds to deal with the emotional roller coaster of parenthood.

"Let's say you have a colicky baby," Horwitz said. "Colic means your baby is not sleeping, which means you're not sleeping. Now you have resulting symptoms from that: fatigue, irritability, feeling overwhelmed. We've become less tolerant of negative emotions. It's much easier to take a pill."

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