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Behavior Drugs Given to Four-Year-Olds Prompt Calls for Inquiry—in the UK

The overmedication of America's children should prompt a national investigation

"Behavior Drugs Given to Four-Year-Olds Prompt Calls for Inquiry": So ran a front-page news story in yesterday's Guardian, one of Britain's leading newspapers. "Children as young as four are being given Ritalin-style medication for behavioral problems in breach of NHS [National Health Service] guidelines, the Guardian has discovered, prompting the leading psychological society to call for a national review."

Why is it difficult to imagine a similar headline in, say, USA Today? After all, we have copious evidence that toddlers less than one-year-old have been given even-more powerful drugs in this country, including atypical antipsychotics. In March 2009, as I've noted before, Florida's St. Petersburg Times reported that in 2007 23 infants less than one-year-old were given antipsychotics.

That newspaper's title for the story, "Approval Process Lowers the Number of Kids on Atypical Prescriptions," was meant to reassure readers that the numbers were slipping: Only 5 one-year-olds were prescribed the drugs the following year, the paper reports. Similarly, "only" 107 three-year-olds, 268 four-year-olds, and 437 five-year-olds were given the powerful antipsychotics in 2008.

Concerning the overmedication of America's toddlers and children, can we not have a national investigation into similar "breaches of . . . guidelines" here, too?

Related links:

"'The bipolar child is a purely American phenomenon': An Interview with Philip Dawdy," Psychology Today (April 7, 2009).

"Child's Ordeal Shows Dangers of Antipsychotic Drugs," New York Times (September 1, 2010).

"Medicating Children: Why Controversy Still Flares over 'Early Detection,'" Psychology Today (September 2, 2010).

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