Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dosing Kids with Psychiatric Meds

SciAm writer John Horgan lists ugly experiments:
Are the days of ugly research over? If only. In the past two decades, American psychiatrists have been carrying out what is in effect an enormous clinical trial involving millions of children. Physicians are medicating children with stimulants such as Ritalin, antidepressants such as Prozac, anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, bipolar drugs such as lithium and antipsychotics such as Risperdal. “It’s really to some extent an experiment, trying medications in these children of this age,” child psychiatrist Patrick Bacon told producers of the 2008 PBS documentary “The Medicated Child.” “It’s a gamble. And I tell parents there’s no way to know what’s going to work.” As of 2009, more than 500,000 American adolescents and children, including toddlers younger than two, were taking antipsychotics, which “may pose grave risks to development of both their fast-growing brains and their bodies,” according to The New York Times. In Anatomy of an Epidemic (Crown, 2010), which I have written about previously, journalist Robert Whitaker presents evidence that psychiatric drugs may be hurting more children than they help. Since 1987, he reports, while prescriptions for children have soared, the number of patients under 18 receiving federal disability payments for mental illness has multiplied by a factor of 35. By this measure, the experiment does not seem to be working.
We should first agree that it is a giant and dangerous experiment, and second, agree on some measure for deciding whether it is a success or a failure.

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