Thousands of US Preschoolers Taking Psychiatric Drugs

Rob Wipond
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Over 1% of preschoolers on Medicaid in 36 US states studied, including hundreds of infants and thousands of children aged four or younger, are being given antipsychotics, antidepressants, amphetamine stimulants and other psychiatric drugs, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers examined 2000-2003 Medicaid Analytic Extract data from 36 states. They found that overall 1.19 percent of children aged 0-4 received a prescription for a psychiatric drug. Specifically, 0.17 percent of infants younger than 1 year old and 0.34 percent of children between 1 and 2 years were being prescribed psychotropics.

“Across ages and cohorts, 0.61 percent of children received a prescription for ADHD, 0.59 percent for depression or anxiety and 0.24 percent for psychotic illness or bipolar disorder,” stated a press release about the study.

In their study, the researchers described the absolute numbers as “small” and did not specifically discuss them. However, the data apparently indicated that over 20,000 children in 36 states under the age of four were taking psychiatric drugs in 2003. “Although the absolute numbers and percentages of these drugs were small, these findings are worrying in so far as they indicate the use of psychotropic drugs among very young children,” wrote the researchers. “Preschoolers are receiving psychotropic medications despite limited evidence supporting safety or efficacy.”

“The fact that any children this small are using psychotropic drugs is very worrisome,” commented one of the authors in the press release.

Study finds 1. 2 percent of preschoolers on Medicaid use psychotropic drugs (Washington University in St. Louis press release on ScienceDaily, April 13, 2015)

Garfield, Lauren D., Derek S. Brown, Benjamin T. Allaire, Raven E. Ross, Ginger E. Nicol, and Ramesh Raghavan. “Psychotropic Drug Use Among Preschool Children in the Medicaid Program From 36 States.” American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 3 (January 20, 2015): 524–29. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302258.(Abstract)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. The elementary school where I used to work resembled a “factory farm” for ADHD drugs…a teacher would complain about a student (quite often a wiggly boy), the “team” would meet, the psychologist would give the student an ADHD screen (quite a bogus thing, in my opinion), then the parent would be called in and it would be subtly suggested that he/she should take the child to the doctor….(the unsaid part was to get a prescription for meds)…..I remember one little boy, formerly a spunky thing, looking – after getting the meds- always sad, with the light and sparkle in his eyes gone.
    Once I wised up, I refused to go along – and convinced the team that we needed interventions in the classroom – move the child’s seat, try a new and more tolerant teacher, etc. These referrals stopped because these interventions were successful.

    • Kudos, ebl. The drugging of our children is a crime against humanity, but I understand it’s also profitable for the schools, since they get additional funding for each child labeled as “mentally ill.” Does anyone know whether this is a federal or state government monetary incentive to drug our children? Who’s to blame?

  2. Even one child on any of the so-called antipsychotics is one child too many! What is going on in this country that parents will allow children to be drugged with dangerous and toxic drugs? Why would anyone believe that children are mentally ill? Something is badly wrong in this country.