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Psychotropic Drug Use in Preschool-Aged Children

Psychotropic Drug Use Stabilizes Finally

psychotropic drugWhile studies have found that treating preschool-aged children with psychotropic medicines increased by three times between 1991 and 2001, the numbers have since been stabilizing.[1] Common psychotropic drugs include typical and atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, antianxiety agents, stimulants, and mood stabilizers.1 Even though few psychotropic medicines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this age group, they are often prescribed for children presenting with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, anxiety, and more.1

Data from 1994 to 2009 from the National Ambulatory and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys have been analyzed.1 These surveys collected data on office- and hospital-based physician visits in the United States.1 It was found that the likelihood of receiving a behavioral diagnosis spiked during the three-year period of 2006 to 2009; however, this was not paired with increased psychotropic medicine prescriptions.1 In fact, during the period of 1994 to 1997, psychotropic medicine prescriptions increased drastically among those with a behavioral diagnosis.1 Research shows that psychotropic medicine use during 2006 to 2009 was half of that of the period from 1994 to 1997.1

FDA Warnings Against Psychotropic Drug Use in Preschool-Aged Children

Researchers suggest that the continued decrease was caused by several warnings issues by the FDA.1 In the mid-2000s, the FDA released a warning of antidepressant medicines causing increased suicide risk among children and adolescents.1 In 2005, the FDA warned that atomoxetine, a medicine for ADHD treatment, caused potential sudden death and suicidal ideation.1 In 2007, there was a warning released regarding psycho-stimulants about adverse cardiovascular effects and increased psychiatric symptoms.1

Furthermore, the continued use of psychotropic medicines in very young children raise concern regarding the effects on the developing brain.1 Doctors of this age group should ensure that they are using the most up-to-date and stringent diagnostic criteria and clinical practice guidelines to diagnose and treat any true disorders.1

Psychotropic medicines are prescribed for the purpose of improving the emotional and behavioral health of a child with a diagnosed mental health condition.[2] Evidence supporting their effectiveness has been increasing and this may have led to drastic overprescribing.2 To ensure your child is not prescribed medicines that are unneeded, a competent child and adolescent psychiatrist should be sought for help.2 There may be other alternatives to treating your child, such as therapy and changing the environmental factors that may influence their functioning in a negative way.2 Extracurricular activities through child-serving agencies and a strong home support system are key to the mental health of a preschool-aged child who is struggling.2



[1] Brooks, M. (2013, September 30). Psychotropic Drug Use Leveling Off in Preschoolers. Medscape. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811792

[2] A Guide for Community Child Serving Agencies on Psychotropic Medications for Children and Adolescents. (February 2012). American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from www.aacap.org.

One Comment

  • Hank

    October 26, 2013, 11:21 am

    Some genuinely interesting information, well written and broadly speaking user friendly.

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