The perils of prescriptions for young children
Doctors are prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to kids as young as 18 months old. Some experts believe the trend is dangerous.
This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
When Brandy Warren took her child Kyle into the doctor's office, she was looking for some relief from the temper tantrums and behavioral problems her son was displaying. At 18 months old, Kyle was put on the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. By the time he turned 3, the New York Times reports that Kyle had also been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac, two sleeping medicines and one drug for attention-deficit disorder.
"All I had was a medicated little boy," Ms. Warren told the New York Times. "I didn't have my son. It's like, you'd look into his eyes and you would just see just blankness."
Kyle's story is part of a larger trend in childhood medicine. The number of 2-5 year olds prescribed anti-psychotic drugs has doubled between the years of 2000 and 2007, according to a recent study by Columbia University.
"The vast majority of perscribers, myself included, who are treating young children who do have severe emotional behavioral problems are doing the best they can, but with insufficient information," Dr. Margaret Gleason, an assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Tulane University, told PRI's The Takeaway.
There simply isn't enough information about how to diagnose and characterize emotional and behavioral disorders, according to Gleason. And there isn't enough information about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs.
"We are in a situation where prescription pads are quite available, but the knowledge to guide that prescribing is quite limited," Gleason says. Doctors quoted by the New York Times believe that Kyle was misdiagnosed as having autism, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
Now, at six years old, he's been taken off most of the medications. He is responding favorably and getting good grades in school. According to Gleason, doctors need to explore "evidence-based, non-pharmacological treatment, and there really aren't enough of those."
"I will never, ever let my children be put on these drugs again," said Ms. Warren told the New York Times. "I didn't realize what I was doing."
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