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Use of Psychiatric Drugs May Be Leveling Off in Young Children

Usage was higher in Caucasian children and those without insurance (September 30)

Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have found that the percentage of children who were prescribed antipsychotics, stimulants, and antidepressants peaked in the mid-2000s but then leveled off between 2006 and 2009. By 2010, fewer young children were being prescribed these medications.

The researchers examined national data from 1994 to 2009 on almost 43,600 children 2 to 5 years of age. They used data from the 1994–2009 National Ambulatory and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys to estimate the percentage of visits that ended with prescriptions for psychotropic prescriptions. Time effects were examined in 4-year blocks.

Psychotropic prescription rates peaked from 2002 to 2005. Boys, Caucasian children, older children, and those lacking private insurance were more likely than children from other groups to receive psychotropic prescriptions. Overall, about 1% of preschoolers left doctors’ visits with a prescription for a psychotropic agent between 1994 and 1997. That rate fell to about 0.8% between 1998 and 2001. It then jumped to a high of about 1.5% between 2002 and 2005, then returned to 1% between 2006 and 2009.

The researchers suggested that the decline in prescriptions from 2006 to 2009 might have been due to an increased awareness of possible adverse effects from the drug classes. The medications were often being prescribed to control various kinds of disruptive behavior in preschoolers. Further study is needed to determine why psychotropic use in very young children stabilized from 2006 to 2009.

[ Source: Pediatrics, 2013;132(4):615–623 (online); September 30, 2013.]

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