Psychiatric Drugs Soaring Among Toddlers

Psychiatric Drugs Soaring Among Toddlers
Posted by FoM on February 22, 2000 at 18:36:10 PT
USA Today Health
Source: USA Today
When he was a toddler, Heath Barker was nicknamed ''the red tornado'' for his auburn hair and his penchant for tearing things up and jumping off the furniture. When he was just 4, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed Ritalin. A study of more than 200,000 preschool-age children shows this was no isolated case. 
The number of 2- to 4-year-olds on psychiatric drugs including Ritalin and anti-depressants like Prozac soared 50% between 1991 and 1995, researchers reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. Experts said they are troubled by the findings, because the effects of such drugs in children so young are largely unknown. Some doctors worry that such powerful drugs could be dangerous for children's development. Heath's mother has anecdotal evidence suggesting - as the researchers do - that the number of youngsters on psychiatric drugs is still rising. Through her involvement in Internet support groups for parents of children with behavior problems, Michele Barker said she is hearing of more and more 3- and 4-year-olds being put on drugs like Prozac. ''It's become a quick fix,'' said Barker, 39, of Hot Springs, Ark. Although the study did not examine reasons for the increases, Julie Magno Zito, the lead author and an assistant professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Maryland, suggested a few possibilities. With an increasing number of children attending day care, parents may feel pressured ''to have their children conform in their behavior,'' Zito said. She also said there is a much greater acceptance in the 1990s of psychoactive drugs. Dr. Joseph T. Coyle of Harvard Medical School's psychiatry department said the study reveals a troubling trend, ''given that there is no empirical evidence to support psychotropic drug treatment in very young children and that there are valid concerns that such treatment could have deleterious effects on the developing brain.'' ''These disturbing prescription practices suggest a growing crisis in mental health services to children and demand more thorough investigation,'' Coyle wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. The authors reviewed Medicaid prescription records from 1991, 1993 and 1995 for preschoolers from a Midwestern state and a mid-Atlantic state; and for those in an HMO in the Northwest. The states were not identified. Use of stimulants, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and clonidine - a drug used in adults to treat high blood pressure and increasingly for insomnia in hyperactive children - were examined. Substantial increases were seen in every category except anti-psychotics, though in some cases the actual number of prescriptions was quite small. The number of children getting any of the drugs totaled about 100,000 in 1991, and jumped 50% to 150,000 in 1995. That year, 60% of the youngsters on drugs were age 4, 30% were 3 and 10% were 2-year-olds.The use of clonidine skyrocketed in all three groups. Although the numbers were small, the researchers said the clonidine increases were particularly remarkable because its use for attention disorders is ''new and largely uncharted.'' They noted that slowed heart beat and fainting have been reported in children who use clonidine with other medications for attention disorders. Dr. David Fassler, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's council on adolescents and their families, said the medications studied ''can be extremely helpful for some children, even quite young children.'' But they should be prescribed only after a comprehensive evaluation and in conjunction with other therapy, he said. Their use is increasing in part because doctors are getting better at diagnosing behavior disorders at an early age, Fassler said. However, because their effects on younger children and their development aren't known, Fassler said, the Food and Drug Administration has recently instructed pharmaceutical companies to study the connection.Barker said Ritalin calmed her son and helped him do well in school. But it also stole his bubbly personality, so she took him off it after four years. ''He started becoming the so-called zombie,'' she said. The family altered his diet and tried nutritional supplements instead. Now almost 12 and drug-free for nearly four years, Heath is repeating fifth grade and has some learning difficulties. But his mother said he seems happier, and so is she. ''I don't care if he's not an honor roll student,'' she said, ''because he's healthy.''Chicago Published: February 22, 2000 Copyright 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.  Related Articles:Kids are Suffering Legal Drug Abuse Use, Then Abuse? - ABC News Special:Crossing the Line to Addiction: How and When Does It Happen?
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Comment #2 posted by cerebus on February 23, 2000 at 02:56:43 PT
let kids be kids and try to understand them better
is being a child is a crime or disease? while i realize that there are children that need these drugs for real behavorial disorders but everyones kid because he has some extra energy and a short attention span seem to me what i remember my childhood to be like. i was bad i was mischevious cause by divorce and parential fighting and my own need for attention at that age. now theyd throw me on a drug and zombify me. children have an enoromous amount of information coming to then thru many different media we live in a culture of the 2 min microwave dinner instant movies entertainment and games and seemingly instant gratificatation for almost any want. we want to catergorize and alphebatize and line up all the duck in a row. id call it conspiracy doctors dopin children maybe the governments behind it. rather tho i think its more laziness by all patries involved to understand their child and understand that sudden or any behavorial change might probably be caused by a root problem ususally a need or desire for attention will cause a child to act in any number of different ways that in its perception will draw attention to itself. to dope children zombify them so they sit still in school go to bed eat their veggies and basically act like a zombie out of sight out of mind. hopefully the problem will blow over or well refill the prescription. im glad they didnt have these drugs when i was a child let kids be kids there gonna misbehave there gona drive up up a tree at times theyll do goofy stuff when they want u to notice em . if that means throwing a tantrum well if actin cute wont do it why not.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on February 22, 2000 at 22:57:53 PT
Study Questions Ritalin, Prozac for Preschoolers
Study Questions Ritalin, Prozac for Preschoolers By Susan OkieWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, February 23, 2000; Page A01 are prescribing stimulants such as Ritalin and antidepressants such as Prozac for preschoolers at rates that appear to be rising rapidly, according to a study released yesterday. The study, covering children age 2 to 4 in three large health systems in different parts of the United States, found the use of such drugs had doubled or even tripled from 1991 to 1995.Click the link to read the complete article.
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