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The Child Advocate is devoted to children and the parents and professionals that work with them and advocate for them. Children on medication for behavioral problems is a major concern for parents. The information presented at this site is for general use only and is not intended to provide personal advice or substitute for the advice of a qualified professional. If you have questions about the information presented here, please consult the resources listed or other professional in your area.

US kids on behavioral meds tripled in a decade

NEW YORK, Apr 25 (Reuters Health) – The number of children in the United States prescribed medications to treat depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other behavioral conditions nearly tripled between 1986 and 1996, according to the results of a study.

The overall annual rate for the prescription of these types of medications–called psychotropic medications because they aim to treat emotional/behavioral conditions–was 14 children per 1,000 in 1987 and increased to 39 children per 1,000 in 1996, the investigators found.

In the study, Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University in New York City and colleagues reviewed surveys of medication use for more than 50,000 people including about 17,000 children under the age of 18 years in 1986 and 1996. The findings are published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Olfson and his team found that the number of children taking stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, used to treat ADHD, quadrupled from 6 children per 1,000 in 1986 to 24 per 1,000 in 1996.

Those taking antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft, among others, rose from 3 children per 1,000 in 1986 to 10 per 1,000 in 1996, the authors report.

“In 1996, stimulant use was especially common in children aged 6 to 14 years and antidepressant use was common in children aged 15 to 18 years,” the report indicates.

“An important challenge ahead lies in determining the appropriateness (and ultimately the effectiveness) of the care provided to a large number of children and adolescents who receive prescribed psychotropic medications each year,” Olfson and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2002;41:514-521.

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