In a presentation this week at an American Psychiatric Association meeting, Dr. John Goethe, director of the Burlingame Center for Psychiatric Research in Connecticut, reported that over the last 10 years, more than half of all children aged 5 to 12 in psychiatric hospitals were prescribed antipsychotics — and 95% of these prescriptions were for second-generation antipsychotics.
Many of these children didn’t have a condition for which the drugs have been shown to be helpful: 44% of youngsters with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 45% of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were treated with them.
Pharmacologically, the ADHD prescriptions make no sense: FDA-approved drugs for the condition raise levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, while antipsychotics do the opposite, lowering them.
Goethe also noted another study that showed that the number of office visits by children and teens that included antipsychotic drug prescriptions rose 600% from 1993 to 2002. “The obvious second-generation bias is very apparent in these data, as is the irrational use of antipsychotics for indications such as PTSD and ADHD for which there is no controlled evidence whatsoever that these are safe or effective treatments,” says Dr. Bruce Perry, senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston.