Monday, July 30, 2007

The 'atypical' dilemma

Posted at the St. Petersburg Times (FL).

More and more, parents at wit's end are begging doctors to help them calm their aggressive children or control their kids with ADHD. More and more, doctors are prescribing powerful antipsychotic drugs.

In the past seven years, the number of Florida children prescribed such drugs has increased some 250 percent. Last year, more than 18,000 state kids on Medicaid were given prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs.

Even children as young as 3 years old. Last year, 1,100 Medicaid children under 6 were prescribed antipsychotics, a practice so risky that state regulators say it should be used only in extreme cases.

These numbers are just for children on fee-for-service Medicaid, generally the poor and disabled. Thousands more kids on private insurance are also on antipsychotics.


There is almost no research on the long-term effects of such powerful medications on the developing brains of children. The more that researchers learn, the less comfortable many are becoming with atypicals.

Initially billed as wonder drugs with few significant side effects, evidence is mounting that they can cause rapid weight gain, diabetes, even death.


Medicaid and insurance companies have fed the problem, encouraging the use of psychiatric drugs as they reimburse less and less for labor-intensive psychotherapy and occupational therapy.

Another factor: Doctors have been influenced by pharmaceutical companies, which have aggressively marketed atypicals.

Whatever the reasons for the soaring use of psychiatric drugs in children, things have gotten out of whack, according to Dr. Ronald Brown. Last year he headed an American Psychological Association committee that looked into the issue.

"The bottom line is that the use of psychiatric medications far exceeds the evidence of safety and effectiveness," Brown said.

Are you willing to take that chance with your child? I think that parents, schools, and psychiatrists would be amazed to see the difference between children raised by daycare centers and government school systems compared to children raised by their parents. I'm generalizing of course, but overall these behavioral problems are largely learned and/or uncorrected behaviors that begin in early childhood and become more disruptive and even destructive as the child grows older.

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