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American kids take more psychotropic medications than European kids

This study published in the September issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health compared the use of psychotropic medications – drugs that affect psychological function – among children ages 0 to 19 years old in the US, Germany, and the Netherlands. These drugs are for prescription use and include antidepressants, stimulants, tranquilizers, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety agents.

The results show that American kids are 2 to 3 times more likely to be on psychotropic drugs than German and Dutch kids, respectively. The annual prevalence of any psychotropic medication was significantly higher in the US (6.7%) than in the Netherlands (2.9%) and in Germany (2.0%), according to the study. The most common medications prescribed were antidepressants and stimulants. In addition, the use of multiple drugs to treat one disorder was far more common among American kids.

The reasons cited for the differences observed in this 3-country comparison are:

  • Differences in drug regulation policies
  • Differences in health care systems
  • Prevalence of drug advertising in the US
  • Different diagnostic and medical practices
  • Different cultural beliefs regarding the use of drugs in the treatment of emotional and behavioral problems

Based on the comparative study described above, this site here claims that “American Kids are the Most Medicated in the World.” This is a bit exaggerated considering the study looked at only one class of drugs. Yet there could be a grain of truth in it. These results give us some food for though after having touched on topics of medications for kids in previous posts, medications that are non-psychotropic.

Let us consider, for example Dawn’s post on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines that recommend anti-cholesterol drugs for children. Then just a few days ago, I tackled the topic of vitamin D and the new APP guidelines that ask for doubling supplementation dose.

Do you think American kids are overmedicated?

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