Psychotropic drug prescriptions leveling off for children

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According to a new study, the use of psychotropic prescription medications has leveled off with young children who have mental disorders.

Psychotropic medications, which are commonly used to treat ADHD, mood disorders and other mental health problems, include both typical and atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, antianxiety agents, stimulants and mood stabilizers. Only a few of these medications have been approved by the FDA for use by preschool-age children, and many come with warnings. A stabilizing in the usage may mean that the doctors are paying attention to the warnings and showing restraint where these prescriptions are concerned.

An increase in drug usage

In spite of the fact that these drugs are not approved for children, researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center showed that psychotropic prescriptions increased threefold from 1991 to 2001 for this age group. Researchers collected information on 43,000 young patients who visited physician practices and hospital-based outpatient clinics. The data came from two national surveys of children aged 2 to 5 years to determine the use of psychotropic prescription medication between 1994 and 2009. Usage peaked from 2002 to 2005, but dropped and leveled off between 2006 and 2009.

Unforeseen risks

Strong warnings about this class of drug for young people began to appear in the mid- to late 2000s. This may be a factor in the stabilizing of the prescription numbers. In 2004, the FDA issued a “black box” warning about the link with suicide risk in psychotropic drug usage for children. In 2005, amphetamines were linked to cardiovascular risk.

“Our findings underscore the need to ensure doctors of very young children who are diagnosing ADHD, the most common diagnosis, and prescribing stimulants, the most common psychotropic medications, are using the most up-to-date and stringent diagnostic criteria and clinical practice guidelines,” explained Dr. Tanya Froehlich, pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Furthermore,” she adds, “given the continued use of psychotropic medications in very young children and concerns regarding their effects on the developing brain, future studies on the long-term effect of psychotropic medication use in this age group are essential.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Pediatrics

 
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