A widely reported new study finds that more kids and teens are being prescribed antipsychotic medications than ever before. Many of these prescriptions are for “off-label” uses – those not approved by the FDA – like treatment for ADHD. Given the fact that we don’t know a whole lot about how these meds affect the brain over the long term, should we be so quick to put our kids on them? On the other hand, this issue begs another obvious one: What’s the alternative?
In children and adolescents, antipsychotic medications are approved only for treatment of bipolar disorder (in kids 10-17), schizophrenia (in kids 13-17), the irritability that can accompany autism, and the “tics and vocal utterances of Tourette syndrome.”
So the fact that their prescription has risen so markedly in recent years means that that “the range of mental disorders treated with these medications in practice has broadened,” according to the authors of the new paper. “In young people, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other disruptive disorders account for a substantial proportion (37.8%) of antipsychotic use.” Again, these drugs are not actually approved to treat these disorders, making these “off-label” uses for the class of drugs.
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