National Academy of Sciences
January 17, 2003


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

Learn more about childrens mental health and development in our Web
Extra feature, Investing in Our Children.