Health + Safety

Study: Children’s Antipsychotic Use Explodes

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Canadian researchers are warning of an alarming and “exponential” rise in prescribing antipsychotic drugs to children.

Prescriptions for some of the most powerful psychiatric drugs on the market – so-called “second-generation” antipsychotics, or SGAs – to youth 18 and under increased 18-fold in British Columbia alone between 1996 and 2011, a new study finds, with some of the highest increases in prescriptions to boys as young as six. Children are being put on the potent drugs for a wide range of diagnoses not approved by Health Canada, the researchers say.

The phenomenon “is of great concern” given emerging evidence showing that the drugs can cause rapid weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and other serious side effects that make children vulnerable to an in-creased risk of heart attack and stroke when they’re older, the research team reports in the June edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

The study is based on data from the B.C. health ministry.

Overall, the total number of children under 18 who received an antipsychotic prescription increased to 5,791 in 2011 from 1,583 in 1996 – a nearly fourfold jump.