NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Children Taking Psychiatric Drugs

January 14, 2003

The number of children and adolescents taking a wide variety of psychiatric drugs more than doubled from 1987 to 1996, according to University of Maryland researchers. Whether the trend is good or bad is unclear to experts, but one psychiatrists noted the lack of studies in both animals and humans and commented that we are experimenting on our own children.

  • Researchers found that of the 900,000 children and adolescents studied, 6.2 percent took at least one psychiatric drug in 1996 -- compared with 2.5 percent in 1987.
  • In 1996, twice as many boys as girls took the drugs, which consisted of stimulants, antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
  • Youngsters also appear to be taking the drugs for longer periods of time than they did 10 years ago.
  • The study, experts said, further confirms that pediatricians and child psychiatrists are increasingly turning to pharmacology to treat depression, attention disorder, severe anxiety, obsessive disorder, manic depression and other conditions.

Experts point out that animal studies have hinted some of the drugs may have lasting effects on the brain if they are taken before puberty.

Source: Erica Goode, "Study Finds Jump in Children Taking Psychiatric Drugs," New York Times, January 14, 2003; based on Julie Magno Zito, et al., "Psychotropic Practice Patterns for Youth A 10-Year Perspective," Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, January 2003.


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