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)