National Academy of Sciences January 17, 2003 NUMBER OF CHILDREN RECEIVING PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS IS INCREASING Jan. 17, 2003 -- The number of children and adolescents taking psychiatric drugs more than doubled from 1987 to 1996, says this months Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Researchers examined the prescription records of nearly 900,000 children and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid programs in one Midwestern and one mid-Atlantic state and a private health maintenance organization in the Northwest from 1987 to 1996. They found that by 1996, 6.2 percent of the children studied were taking at least one psychiatric drug, compared to just 2.5 percent in 1987, with the greatest increase in prescriptions occurring after 1991. The most commonly prescribed drugs were stimulants like Ritalin and anti-depressants such as Prozac. While the study did not examine the cause of this increase, the 2001 National Academies report From Neurons to Neighborhoods criticizes the national trend toward quick fixes in childrens mental-health care, including the extensive use of psychiatric drugs on preschoolers with behavioral problems. It recommends changing current practices to better distinguish between children with serious emotional disorders and those who are immature or experiencing short-term developmental delays. Learn more about childrens mental health and development in our Web Extra feature, Investing in Our Children.