In the last 20 years, antipsychotic use in children has nearly doubled. The problem is that there have been zero studies on efficacy, long-term side-effects, etc. for these drugs when used on children and adolescents:
Atypical antipsychotic drugs are currently only approved to treat adults suffering from such psychotic illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar and other mood disorders, and Tourette''s syndrome. However, these drugs are often used to treat other psychiatric disorders for which they are not approved.
This group of antipsychotics includes Clozaril, Risperdal, Geodon, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.
There have been deaths and there are side-effects:
Why are we doing this? Because parents seem clueless and powerless to handle an aggressive child with anger management issues. Because administrators and teachers are trying to minimize the disruption in classes. Because more and more children demonstrate the effects of poor nutrition, sleep habits, problem coping skills, media saturation, and rootlessness. Because doctors don't know what to do so they do something.
John March, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, prescribes the drugs to kids in some cases of serious illness when he thinks the benefits outweigh the risks. But he says prescribing them for behavior problems alone may be a mistake. "We have no evidence about the safety of these agents or their effectiveness in controlling aggression," he says. "Why are we doing this?"
At the same time, reports of deaths and dangerous side effects linked to the drugs are mounting. A USA TODAY study of FDA data collected from 2000 to 2004 shows at least 45 deaths of children in which an atypical antipsychotic was listed in the FDA database as the "primary suspect." There also were 1,328 reports of bad side effects, some of them life-threatening.
Drug companies are required to file any reports they have to the FDA, but consumers and doctors report such events on a voluntary basis. Studies suggest the FDA's Adverse Events Reporting System database captures only 1% to 10% of drug-induced side effects and deaths, "maybe even less than 1%," says clinical pharmacologist Alastair J.J. Wood, an associate dean at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville. So the real number of cases is almost certainly much higher.
"We're conducting a very large experiment on our children," March says.
At the core, I hold doctors responsible. They prescribe mood altering medications as if they are no big deal. But these medications have huge implications for developing brains. If a child is on the med, a child is a walking experiment. Period.