NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 5, 2006

Drug prescriptions meant to counter depression, anxiety and mood or attention disorders in teens increased by 250 percent between 1994 and 2001, according to a Brandeis University study released yesterday.


  • Teenage boys are particularly targeted, with one out of every 10 who visits the doctor leaving with a prescription to treat a mental condition.
  • Overall, up to a quarter of the office visits which yielded a prescription "did not have an associated mental health diagnosis."
  • Ready prescriptions are on the rise despite the fact that few psychotropic drugs, typically prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and other mood disorders, are approved for use in children under 18.

The dramatic increase in prescribing of psychotropic medications is of considerable concern because these medications are not without risks, says lead author Cindy Parks Thomas.

The researchers specifically cited the impact of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration 1997 decision to relax limits on consumer advertising of prescription drugs. They found that pharmaceutical companies increased spending on TV advertising alone by six fold between 1996 and 2000, to a total of $1.5 billion.

The researchers also found a "greater acceptance among physicians and the public of psychotropic drugs." Other factors to account for greater use of the drugs included new medications with fewer side effects and more mental health screening, Thomas noted.

Source: Jennifer Harper, "Prescriptions of mind-altering drugs for teens rise," Washington Times, January 4, 2006.


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