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Originally published September 26 2008

Psychotropic Drug Use Soars in UK Teens

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The number of children being treated with anti-psychotic drugs has drastically increased in the United Kingdom, according to a study conducted by researchers from University of London's School of Pharmacy and published in the journal Pediatrics. The increase among children in the United States is believed to be substantially higher still.

Researchers reviewed the records of more than 16,000 children seen by 400 doctors. They found that while fewer than four in 10,000 children were prescribed antipsychotics in 1992, the rate had increased to seven per 10,000 by 2005. When the researchers looked at the rate of new prescriptions, however, it did not appear to have changed much, "which suggests that the patients remain on treatment longer."

This increase was largest among children between the ages of seven and 12, who underwent a threefold increase in prescription rate from 2 per 10,000 to 6 per 10,000. Much of this increase appeared to be due to so-called "off label use," meaning uses not approved for the government, most often for treatment of autism or hyperactivity.

The use of such drugs is not approved for these conditions in children because their effectiveness has never been proven.

Many of the drugs being given to children are fairly new, the researchers noted, making their effects even more uncertain. They noted that the prescription of atypical antipsychotics increased by 60 times from 192 to 2005, while the prescription rate of older antipsychotic drugs actually fell.

"The prescribing of atypical anti-psychotic drugs has increased despite the lack of conclusive evidence showing their superiority over older conventional anti-psychotics," they said.

Known side effects of antipsychotics include extreme weight gain, heart problems and even malfunctioning of the nervous system.

"This highlights the need for long-term safety investigations and ongoing monitoring, particularly if the prescribing rate of these medicines continues to rise," the researchers wrote.

According to the Associated Press, children in the United States are prescribed antipsychotics at six times the rate of children in the United Kingdom.

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