The “Wild West” of childhood psychiatric prescriptions

On, Dawn Attride has this article on the drug cocktails being prescribed to children and the mounting risks they bring: 

At age 11, Bradley Sonnenberg was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He was prescribed a little green capsule taken once daily. To his mother, Andrea, the prospect of her son getting better outweighed the potential risks of starting a prescription at such a young age. But it was not a decision she took lightly. 

Five years later, Bradley’s mental health declined further. Another pill was introduced to his regimen. As her son grew older, the cascade of medications became a blur, Andrea says. When various side effects became debilitating, he was given even more medications. She grew worried and asked Bradley’s doctor why he was on two drugs that treated the same condition. ‘Oh, well, you’ll need to ask his neurologist that question,’ was the frank response. But his neurologist didn’t have a clear answer either.

At 21, Bradley was given highly addictive benzodiazepines as his condition worsened. His mother’s concern mounted, but she was again advised that the drugs would give him much-needed relief. ‘You trust the psychiatrist, but I just knew that it wasn’t a good idea when he started the benzos. I was nervous — it felt like a Band-Aid, not a solution,’ she says.

One night, Bradley wasn’t feeling well, so he took Advil and drank a Red Bull before heading to bed. Bradley was living away from home but talked with his family regularly. He didn’t answer a phone call from his mother at 9 p.m., which was unusual, Andrea recalls. 

Bradley died in his sleep that night. The cause of his death: drug interactions, the coroner’s report stated. . . . 

Bradley was a son, a brother, a friend — and one of many affected by improper prescribing practices. Polypharmacy, the prescription of multiple drugs, is a growing problem in the treatment of childhood mental illness. A 2021 study found a near 200% increase in psychotropic, or mind-altering, drug polypharmacy among children 3-18 over the last 20 years.” 

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