There is an increasing trend to place difficult children on psychotropic drugs. According to a blog published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on February 19, 2015, there are over 275,000 infants below the age of 1 year taking medically prescribed psychotropic drugs. The article is titled Why Are So Many Toddlers Taking Psychiatric Drugs?
“According to IMS Health’s Vector One: National and Total Patient Tracker Database for 2013 these are the figures for just 0-1 year olds being prescribed psychiatric drugs:
- 249,669 0-1 year olds are on anti-anxiety drugs (such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan).
- 26,406 0-1 year olds are on antidepressants (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil).
- There are 1,422 0-1 year olds taking ADHD drugs (such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta).
- 654 0-1 year olds are taking antipsychotics (such as Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa).
The National Institute of Health (NIH) summarizes its position with regard to treating infants and children with psychotropic drugs. The assumption is that early treatment of mental health issues will prevent problems in adults. There is also mention of preserving healthy develop while reducing the burden on societal coping with problem children. The bulk of the coping requirement is with the parents.
“Childhood and adolescence is a period of extraordinary biological, psychological and social growth. However, at such times, individuals are also vulnerable to disruptions of healthy development. In fact, a staggering 50% of all adult psychiatric disorders have manifested by age 14, with 75% manifesting by age 24 1. Moreover, two thirds of pediatric-onset psychiatric disorders are moderate or severe 2, and most continue into adulthood 3. Such patterns clearly indicate the importance of identifying and appropriately treating psychiatric disorders as early as possible to preserve healthy development and to reduce individual suffering and societal burden.
What the NIH does not acknowledge is that many of the drugs used on infants and children have never been evaluated for long-term safety and effectiveness on infants and children. Doctors are free to prescribe drugs largely as they see fit. This is called “off-label” prescribing and the applications do not have to be FDA approved.
One of the common drugs used “off-label” to treat infants and children is Xanax. From Xanax prescribing information, the follow is quoted.
- Xanax should be used with extreme caution in CHILDREN younger than 18 years old; safety and effectiveness in these children have not been confirmed.
PROZAC WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS section state:
Suicidal Thoughts And Behaviors In Children, Adolescents, And Young Adults
Risperidal has this insert for Warnings and Precautions for pregnant women and nursing mothers:
Before taking this medicine
Taking antipsychotic medication during the last 3 months of pregnancy may cause problems in the newborn, such as withdrawal symptoms, breathing problems, feeding problems, fussiness, tremors, and limp or stiff muscles. However, you may have withdrawal symptoms or other problems if you stop taking your medicine during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking this medicine, do not stop taking it without your doctor’s advice.
Risperidone can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not breast-feed while taking this medicine and for at least 12 weeks after your treatment ends.
Do not give this medicine to a child without a doctor’s advice.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported the results of a January 2014 investigation titled National Trends in the Mental Health Care of Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Office-Based Physicians. The report was authored by Olfson, Blanco, Wang, Laje and Correll. The report concluded that general practice physicians are prescribing psychotropic drugs to young patients more than for adults.
“Conclusions and Relevance
Compared with adult mental health care, the mental health care of young people has increased more rapidly and has coincided with increased psychotropic medication use. A great majority of mental health care in office-based medical practice to children, adolescents, and adults is provided by non-psychiatrist physicians calling for increased consultation and communication between specialties.
There are significant risks involved in giving psychotropic drugs to infants, adolescents and young adults. Giving these drugs to infants under the age of 1 year old should be evaluated for gross negligence. The underlying problem is that freedom that any physician can prescribe nearly any drug for any condition without regard to FDA mandated testing for the drug in a particular age group.
“Off-label” discretionary use of psychotropic drugs should be prohibited in general for infants, adolescents and young adults, and absolutely prohibited where the warning label states that the drug should not be used in any segment of this particular age group. There have been billions of dollars in fines of drug manufacturers for illegally promoting off-label applications of psychotropic drugs to children. The fines have not stopped these illegal practices, and criminal prosecution should be the chosen deterrent.