June 11, 2006

Psychiatric Drugs for Young People

National Public Radio has a good program on the issue of prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to young children. The focus of the program is not people who have schizophrenia (only 1 in 10,000 children develop schizophrenia at a young age), but rather the prescribing of anti-psychotic medications for people who are not diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder - but other disorders that these drugs may help in.

NPR says:

Doctors are treating more young people with anti-psychotic drugs, according to a new study. And they're not just prescribing the medications for psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and mania, but also for disruptive behavior and mood disorders. Why are prescriptions for these drugs on the rise, and what are the risks involved?

The researchers writing in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that in more than one million office-based medical visits by children and adolescents under 20, doctors prescribed anti-psychotic medications. That's up from about 200,000 in the mid-1990s - 200,000 to one million, now.

NPR looks at the reasons why growing numbers of children are taking psychiatric drugs, what the risks are - after all, almost none of them have been fully tested in pediatric populations. We're also going to talk about how psychiatric drugs work.

Listen to the full 30 minute debate debate between David Cohen, professor of social work, Florida International University and Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, director, New York State Psychiatric Institute; chairman, Psychiatry Department, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons with the former taking anti meds stance and the latter a pro meds stance.

Just following this link: Psychiatric Drugs for Young People and then click on the "Listen" button.

The New York Times covered this issue in a June 5th article, in which they said:

The use of potent antipsychotic drugs to treat children and adolescents for problems like aggression and mood swings increased more than fivefold from 1993 to 2002, researchers are reporting today.

The survey, based on visits to physicians in which an antipsychotic medication was prescribed, found that such visits increased to 1,438 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2002 from 275 per 100,000 from 1993 to 1995. The total number of visits in which the drugs were prescribed rose 1,224,000 in 2002 from 201,000 in 1993 to 1995.

Psychiatrists were more likely to prescribe the drugs than other physicians, according to the study published today in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"To me, the most striking thing was that nearly one in five psychiatric visits for young people included a prescription for antipsychotics," said Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and the lead author of the study, financed in part by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Experts said the findings were likely to inflame a continuing debate over the use of psychiatric medication in children. In recent years, antidepressants have been linked to an increase in suicidal thinking or behavior in some minors, and stimulants prescribed to treat attention deficit problems have been linked to an exacerbation of underlying heart problems. Stimulants and antidepressants are the two classes of psychiatric drugs most commonly prescribed for children.


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