Antipsychotics for toddlers pose severe risks

A little girl is crying.

More than 500,000 American children are on antipsychotic drugs, according to the FDA. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Crimfants/Wikipedia)

Kyle Warren of Opelousas, La., was given antipsychotic drugs at 18 months of age to mollify temper tantrums. By the time he was 3, reports the New York Times, Kyle had been diagnosed with autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia and oppositional defiant disorder. The medicines he was prescribed turned the boy into “a drooling, sedated, overweight zombie,” says his mother. Such cases have caused numerous experts to question whether antipsychotics for toddlers pose more risk than reward.

Antipsychotic prescriptions double without proper assessment

According to a September 2009 study by the Food and Drug Administration, more than 500,000 children and adolescents are on antipsychotic drugs. Many assume that the greatest growth is among teenagers dealing with schizophrenia (as that is the age when the disease is believed to manifest), but the study indicates that “tens of thousands” of preschoolers are becoming customers of big pharmaceutical companies.

The Times cites a troubling Columbia University study that shows that the rate of antipsychotics prescribed for toddlers (privately insured, ages 2 to 5) doubled from 2000 to 2007. Of those children included in the survey, only 40 percent actually received what is considered a proper mental health assessment as defined by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Weaning America off the antipsychotics for toddlers habit

Critics worry that young children are being prescribed antipsychotic drugs much too early.  A professor of clinical psychology consulted for a Lane University program aimed at assisting low-income families with kids who have mental health issues, Dr. Mark Olfson, is horrified by the practice.

“There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon,” he told the Times.

In many cases, experts like Olfson say that doctors are much too willing to write prescriptions for heavy medications when the patients are young children or even infants. Diagnosis of mental conditions in young children is a highly inexact science, to put it mildly. This makes the FDA’s acceptance of certain AstraZeneca- and Bristol-Myers Squibb-branded antipsychotics for use on toddlers all the more disturbing, considering the wide range of disagreement in the clinical community as to whether brains at such an early stage of development should be exposed to such potent mind-altering products.

Thus, doctors can legally prescribe antipsychotics for toddlers for off-label use, despite a lack of safety research. All the while, pharmaceutical companies profit handsomely.

No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

–From “Lost Generation” by Jonathan Reed


Columbia University study

New York Times

Tulane University study

Generations lost

Alternatives to toxic psychiatric drugs

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