(NaturalNews) One in four children with difficulty sleeping is given a psychoactive drug, according to a study conducted by researchers from Hasbro Children's Hospital, St. Joseph's University/Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Case University School of medicine.
Although no sleep drugs have been approved by the FDA for use in children under the age of 18, "treatment of insomnia symptoms with both over-the-counter and prescription medication is a common clinical practice, particularly for children and adolescents with special needs and co-morbid psychiatric disorders," said lead author Judith Owens.
Researchers surveyed almost 1,300 members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry about their school-aged and adolescent patients, finding that one in three suffer from trouble sleeping. Ninety-six percent of respondents said they recommend at least one prescription sleep drug in an average month, while 88 percent recommend at least one over-the-counter drug. Medications used include antihistamines, sedatives, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, and even stimulant drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Prior studies have found that sleep disorders are one of the main reasons for psychiatric drug use in children. Yet behavioral treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and sleep restriction have been shown to be effective treatments, without the risk of side effects.
The over-sedation of children continues a dark tendency in the history of U.S. psychiatric medicine.
"[In the early 20th century,] bromides were given to pregnant women for 'nerves,' to children for 'overactivity,' and to just about anybody who couldn't sleep well at night," writes Sydney Walker in A Dose of Sanity: Mind, Medicine, and Misdiagnosis.
"By 1930, four out of every ten prescriptions written by doctors were for drugs containing bromides," Walker writes. "It took doctors nearly half a century to recognize (and admit) that bromides were terribly toxic, and that thousands of Americans were suffering from anxiety, dementia, or schizophrenia-like symptoms brought on entirely by 'bromide intoxication.' By then, many of their patients were in mental institutions."