America’s youth have a serious drug problem, but it doesn’t involve the teenage backstreet drug-deals you might expect; U.S. psychiatrists prescribe antipsychotic drugs to one out of every three children they treat.
During the 1990s, only about one out of 11 children received the same drugs. The increase, researchers contend, is due in part to doctors prescribing the drugs for disruptive behaviors like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No antipsychotics are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat those disorders in kids, however, the research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry says.
“They’re approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and irritability with autism. None of them are approved for use with ADHD,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, the study’s lead author and a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York.
Olfson and his team found that for children and teens, around 90 percent of the antipsychotic prescriptions handed out during office visits between 2005 and 2009 were “off label,” where drugs are prescribed for something other than for what they’re intended.
Antipsychotics were originally intended to treat extreme personality disorders like schizophrenia, and many experts believe that using them to suppress milder more manageable emotional disorders can lead to a buildup of tension and violent outbursts in some patients. These drugs have in the past been linked to school shootings and other violent behaviors in adolescents.
In 2010, Americans spent $16.1 billion on antipsychotic drugs.