More Children Taking Central Nervous System Drugs

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) April 17, 2002 issue published a Health Agency Update titled, “More Children on CNS Drugs”. This article reports on a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which states that, “The proportion of children and adolescents receiving psychotropic medicines increased substantially between 1995 and 1999.” Drugs to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were the most commonly prescribed CNS (Central Nervous System) medications according to the study.

The shocking conclusion of the study was that 3% of the population under age 20 years were receiving drugs for ADHD. The number of children taking new antidepressant drugs jumped 195%, from 1995 to 1999. The study reported on 750,000 children and adolescents throughout the United States who were covered by employer-sponsored insurance. Similar trends were also identified in earlier research on children insured by health maintenance organizations and Medicaid.

The United States has continually had the highest rate of usage of these types of drugs. This leads to the inevitable question of why? The two possible answers to this question are that either the children in the United States are more prone to psychological problems and therefore need these drugs at a much higher level than the rest of the world, or children in this country are greatly over medicated because of the popularity of the diagnosis and the promotion of the drug by the pharmaceutical industry.