Kids Get Psychiatric
Drugs Too Often
The above headline is from the
October 21, 2001 issue of the USA Today newspaper. The
opening sentence from the article makes the statement,
"Doctors are increasingly prescribing psychiatric
drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac to preschoolers, despite
questions about safety and effectiveness."
Child psychiatrist Glen Elliott
of the University of California Medical School in San
Francisco, spoke at the American Academy of Pediatrics
meeting in San Francisco and said, "Every pressure
I'm aware of is pushing toward more use of these pills
in young kids, and the potential for problems is huge."
He goes on to explain, "HMOs are encouraging quick
diagnoses, working parents often can't be home to enforce
structured behavior-improvement programs, and everyone
seems to want quick fixes."
The concern about usage of these
drugs has been growing following a recent report that
showed that Ritalin use more than tripled in preschoolers
between 1991 and 1995, and prescriptions for antidepressants
doubled in that age group during the same period. Dr.
Marsha Rappley, a pediatrician at Michigan State University's
College of Human Medicine in East Lansing states that
one of the concerns are side effects, which can range
from mild to significant. Problems that can occur include
headaches, stomach aches, sleep problems and loss of appetite.
Additionally there is very little research on safety and
effectiveness in kids under 4.
Dr. Elliott worries about the long-term
dangers of prescribing drugs such as Prozac to small children.
"Antidepressants change how brain chemicals work,
and permanent changes might result from kids taking such
drugs since we know a lot of brain development is still
going on at this young age."
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