Polypharmacy Common in Finnish Youth Prescribed Antipsychotics

A new research study in Finland indicates a concerning rise in polypharmacy among children and adolescents being treated with antipsychotic drugs, highlighting the need for more cautious prescription practices.

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The practice of prescribing multiple psychiatric medications, known as polypharmacy, to children and adolescents is increasingly becoming a global concern due to its potential risks and lack of evidence.

A new study published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry finds that Finnish children and adolescents prescribed antipsychotic drugs are commonly prescribed other psychiatric drugs simultaneously. The current research, headed by Eveliina Varimo of the University of Helsinki, also finds that the drugs most widely prescribed alongside antipsychotics are antidepressants and stimulants.

Those already prescribed a psychiatric drug before receiving a prescription for antipsychotics, adolescents aged 13 – 17 years, and girls were the groups most likely to be prescribed multiple psychotropic drugs simultaneously. The authors write:

“In this nationwide register study, we found that nearly half of new antipsychotic users had psychotropic polypharmacy during the first year of their antipsychotic treatment. In new users aged over 13 years, the girls exceeded the boys in frequency of polypharmacy, and the total frequency of polypharmacy was more common in girls than in boys. Antidepressants and psychostimulants/atomoxetine were mostly combined with antipsychotic drug treatment.”

The study raises important questions about the increasing use of multiple psychotropic drugs in young people, their potential health impacts, and the need for reform in pediatric psychiatric treatments.

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Richard Sears
Richard Sears teaches psychology at West Georgia Technical College and is studying to receive a PhD in consciousness and society from the University of West Georgia. He has previously worked in crisis stabilization units as an intake assessor and crisis line operator. His current research interests include the delineation between institutions and the individuals that make them up, dehumanization and its relationship to exaltation, and natural substitutes for potentially harmful psychopharmacological interventions.

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