Prescriptions for anxiety, depression, ADHD drugs growing more common among young children, new study finds

by Michael Heygood

Mental health advocates are raising concerns about the number of young children that are being prescribed psychiatric drugs to treat mental health issues. A report by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) found that hundreds of thousands of infants and toddlers in the U.S. are taking prescription medications to treat anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other psychiatric conditions, despite concerns from experts about the appropriateness of giving these drugs to young children.

The CCHR report analyzed data from IMS Health, a health information and analytics company, about the use of psychiatric medications among young children. The report found that even among infants 0-1 years old, thousands of young children were being treated by doctors with powerful psychiatric drugs, including:

  • 249,669 prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan)
  • 26,406 prescriptions for SSRI antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil)
  • 1,422 prescriptions for ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta)
  • 654 prescriptions for antipsychotic medications (Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa)

Even among older children, the volume of psychiatric medications prescribed by doctors is alarming. The report found that 368,859 children ages 2-3 had been prescribed anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, or powerful antipsychotics. More than one million children ages 0-5 were taking these medications, the CCHR revealed.

Risks of Psychiatric Medications for Children

The volume of anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and antipsychotic prescriptions written for young children is staggering, especially in light of the fact that most doctors and health experts agree that these medications should not be prescribed to children in this age group.

Standard practice guidelines written by the American Academy of Pediatrics do not address the diagnosis of ADHD in children under three years of age or the use of attention-deficit drugs on this group because their safety and effectiveness has not been fully studied. Commonly prescribed ADHD drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) or amphetamines like Adderall may inhibit a child’s growth and lead to insomnia or hallucinations. The FDA has approved the use of Adderall for children under 6 years old. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics only advises the use of the drug in children ages 4-6 after other non-pharmaceutical treatments for ADHD were unsuccessful.

Despite the fact that the FDA has also not approved the use of SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, Celexa, or Pristiq for preschoolers ages 0-5 years old, this age group is one of the fastest growing segment of the population for antidepressant prescriptions. Despite the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors, diabetes, and irregular heartbeat that may be caused by SSRI antidepressant prescriptions, pharmaceutical companies have increasingly marketed these drugs to doctors for off-label prescriptions, helping to fuel the growth of antidepressant use among this age group.

Although the FDA has not approved the use of antipsychotic drugs such as Abilify, Zyprexa, Invega, Seroquel, and Risperdal to treat young children, the off-label prescription of these medications is becoming increasingly common among psychiatrists to treat conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD or disruptive behavior disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette’s syndrome. This trend is especially troubling given the serious side effects that have been linked to the use of antipsychotic drugs, including weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and a movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson Takes On Big Pharma

If your child has suffered side effects from anti-anxiety drugs, SSRI antidepressants, ADHD drugs, antipsychotics, or other psychiatric medications, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the companies that illegally marketed these drugs. The first step to taking legal action on behalf of your child is to speak with an attorney who has the knowledge and experience to handle your case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were affected by side effects from prescription medications. Our law firm has taken on some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, conducting interviews with numerous experts and witnesses and compiling thousands of pages of evidence for cases on behalf of our clients. Through these efforts, our lawyers have amassed years of trial experience that have enabled us to achieve the best possible result in your case.

To find out more about whether you may be eligible to file a lawsuit regarding psychiatric medication prescriptions on behalf of your child, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free legal consultation about your case. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form on this site.

by Michael Heygood

Michael Heygood is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses on insurance and corporate litigation, and other civil arenas. Michael has been named multiple times to the Super Lawyers List.