Psychotropic drugs are commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues in adults, but young children are also using the drugs to treat ADHD and other mood disorders.
In the October 2013 Pediatrics study, “National Trends in Psychotropic Medication Use in Young Children: 1994-2009,” (published online Sept. 30), data from a national sample of more than 43,000 children ages 2 to 5 years found that psychotropic drug use peaked in 2002-2005, then stabilized in 2006-2009.
Increased usage was found in boys, white children, and those lacking private health insurance. The likelihood of receiving a behavioral diagnosis increased throughout the study period, but this was not accompanied by an increase in psychotropic prescription rates. Among children with a behavioral diagnosis, psychotropic drug use decreased from 43 percent in 1994-1997 to 29 percent in 2006-2009. This decrease may be the result of several FDA warnings released in the mid- to late-2000’s, including a 2004 black box warning of suicide risk among children and adolescents, and later warnings related to the possibility of adverse cardiovascular events and psychiatric symptoms.
Study authors conclude that future studies are necessary to determine the safety of continued use of psychotropic medications and the long-term effects they can have on the developing brains of very young children.