December 13, 2012: A study published December 3, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and published on medpage Today, found "that only a small percentage of adolescents with mental disorders are receiving psychotropic medications." Findings "challenged recent concerns" that youth are over-prescribed and overusing medications. However, David Rubin, MD, (left) of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, found that the study doesn't apply to all children in the U.S.:
Rubin noted that the researchers analyzed a "skewed population of children from higher income families" -- 85% of parents had completed high school, 80% of children lived with currently married or cohabiting parents, and only 15% of the families were classified as living in poverty.
Children in those circumstances would be expected to have lower use of medication, because other options, such as nonpharmacologic treatment, are available to them.
Poorer children, on the other hand, would have fewer options when they were treated, Rubin argued, and would be more likely to be offered medications.
"The unfortunate epiphany is that the risk for overprescribing or underprescribing medication is not the same for all children in this country," Rubin noted.
Study limitations included lack of information on health insurance status, which may influence treatment options. Also, data collection was completed in 2004 and may not represent current prescribing practices.
Previously published articles from California's Children show conflicting findings as well. According to a September 2009 report from the Food and Drug Administration, more than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs.
Their use is growing not only among older teenagers, when schizophrenia is believed to emerge, but also among tens of thousands of preschoolers.
A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007. Only 40 percent of them had received a proper mental health assessment, violating practice standards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry....
Another article by California's Children, Susan dosReis, associate professor in the Univ. of Maryland School of Pharmacy, in a study published in Pediatrics, that says foster children are being prescribed "cocktails of powerful antipsychosis drugs just as frequently as some of the most mentally disabled youngsters on Medicaid," as Benedict Carey reported in the New York Times.
“The kids in foster care may come from bad homes, but they do not have the sort of complex medical issues that those in the disabled population do.” said dosReis
As medical student Duff Wilson wrote 2 years ago, doctors and policy makers have grown concerned about high rates of overall psychiatric drug use in the foster care system... Previous studies have found that children in foster care receive psychiatric medications at about twice the rate among children outside the system....
All of these findings leave children's advocates concerned about the discrepancies in the research and socio-economic disparities they illustrate.
Written by: Taylor McCulloch