The use of potent anti-psychotic drugs to treat children and adolescents for problems like aggression and mood swings increased more than fivefold from 1993 to 2002, researchers reported yesterday.
The researchers, who analyzed data from a national survey of doctors' office visits, found that anti-psychotic medications were prescribed to 1,438 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2002, up from 275 per 100,000 in the two-year period from 1993 to 1995.
The findings augment earlier studies that have documented a sharp rise over the last decade in the prescription of psychiatric drugs for children, including anti-psychotics, stimulants such as Ritalin and antidepressants, whose sales have slipped only recently.
The findings, published yesterday in Archives of General Psychiatry, are likely to inflame a continuing debate about the risks of using psychiatric medication in children. In recent years, some antidepressants have been linked to an increase in suicidal thinking or behavior in some minors.