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Number of Children, Teens Being Treated for Mental Disorders is on Rise

According to a report published in the issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, it is disturbing to note that the number of patients, under the age of 20, being treated with antipsychotic medications, is rising steadily//.

Antipsychotics are medications used to treat mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and mania that may involve loss of contact with reality. Several studies have indicated that prescriptions for these medications have been increasing among children and adolescents, raising concerns among professionals and the public. However, no national data have previously been available, according to background information in the article. Most prescriptions given to children and adolescents are for second-generation antipsychotics, which are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pediatric patients.

Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of office-based physicians conducted yearly by federal researchers. In addition to recording whether the child or adolescent patient received a prescription for antipsychotics, the physician or a staff member also logged the patient’s age, sex and race or ethnicity; the length of the visit; the physician’s specialty and whether the patient received psychotherapy.

The number of outpatient health care visits during which patients between the ages of 0 and 20 years received antipsychotic medications increased six-fold between 1993 and 2002, from a yearly average of 201,000 between 1993 and 1995 to 1,224,000 in 2002. For every 100,000 individuals younger than age 21 in the United States, 274.7 such office visits took place each year from 1993 to 1995, compared with 1,341 each year from 2000 to 2002. Overall, 9.2 percent of mental health visits and 18.3 percent of visits to psychiatrists included antipsychotic treatment. Diagnoses among the patients receiving these medica
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