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More Preschoolers Receiving Psychiatric Medications

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"Rather than prescribing a medication, sometimes we need to consider the child's perspective and consider stressors that could be causing problematic behaviors," Martin Maldonado, MD, tells WebMD in an interview seeking analysis of the study. These could include a move or a new sibling, which would be highly stressful to a young child, says Maldonado, an infant and child psychiatrist at Menninger Memorial Hospital in Topeka, Kan.

The trend toward prescribing more psychotropic medications may reflect a change in children's mental health, John Dunne, MD, tells WebMD. "Neither the study author nor the editorial author mentioned anecdotal evidence that there is a rising prevalence of psychiatric disorders in very young children," he says. "This trend may be causing physicians to prescribe more psychotropic medication." Dunne is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle, with a private practice in Renton, Wash. He was not involved in the study.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the George and Leila Mathers Charitable Foundation.

Vital Information:

  • Researchers report many more children are receiving medications for psychiatric disorders. A study found that prescriptions for Ritalin and antidepressants rose significantly from 1991 to 1995.
  • The study's authors and observers alike note the rise in these types of prescriptions could indicate both increased awareness of pediatric mental disorders and a desire to cut costs in treating them.
  • Physicians note that questions remain concerning the appropriateness and safety of these medications in children. They stress that often, more than medication is needed to treat these illnesses in young patients.
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