Over 500,000 American kids on antipsychotics


Chris Bickford for The New York TimesOver 500,000 children and adolescents in America are currently taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a Food and Drug Administration report released in September 2009. Use by older teenagers is growing, believed to be the stage where schizophrenia emerges, and also among the tens of thousands of preschoolers taking the drugs.

A study by Columbia University found recently that prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2 to 5-year-olds doubled between 2000 and 2007. Only 40% were given a proper mental assessment.

“There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon,” said Dr Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry and lead researcher of the study.

Some doctors and experts believe that radical treatments like these are needed to help children with severe problems to safely stay in school or childcare. For example, the FDA in 2006 approved treating children as young as 5 with Risperdal if they were autistic and showed aggressive behaviour, tendencies to self-injury, severe mood swings or tantrums. The drugs Seroquel from AstraZeneca Bristol-Myers Squibb are allowed for youths 10 or older with bipolar disorder. and Abilify from

However, many doctors are concerned that prescribing these drugs for younger and younger children may put their rapid mental and bodily development at risk. The drugs can be prescribed legally by doctors, but they have not been shown to be safe or effective for children.

Dr Ben Vitiello, of the National Institute of Mental Health, says that it is very difficult to diagnose children for mental conditions because of their emotional variability. “This is a recent phenomenon, in large part driven by the misperception that these agents are safe and well tolerated,” he said. ~ New York Times, Sept 1




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