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Children's Health

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1 in 13 U.S. Schoolkids Takes Psych Meds: Report

More than half of parents said the drugs are helpful


White children were the most likely to be on psychiatric medications (9.2 percent), followed by black children (7.4 percent) and Hispanic children (4.5 percent), according to the report.

The study found that significantly more children on Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program were on medication for emotional and behavioral problems (9.9 percent), versus 6.7 percent with private insurance and just 2.7 percent of children without insurance.

Additionally, more families living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level had children taking medications for emotional and behavioral problems than those above the federal poverty level.

Fifty-five percent of parents reported that these medications helped their children "a lot," while another 26 percent said they helped "some." Just under 19 percent said they didn't help at all or helped just a little.

Parents of younger children (between 6 and 11) were slightly more likely to feel the medications helped a lot compared to parents of older children. Parents of males were also more likely to feel the medications helped a lot -- about 58 percent of parents of males reported that they helped a lot compared to about 50 percent of the parents of females.

The report found that parents with incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level were the least likely to feel the medications helped a lot. Just 43 percent of those parents said the medications helped a lot, while about 31 percent said they helped some. More than one-quarter of these parents said the medications only helped a little or not at all.

Of those findings, Howie said, "We really can't speculate what factors would account for the difference."

For his part, Adesman said there are many factors that might contribute to more use of medications in people living under the poverty line and for those on government insurance programs.

"There may be parenting challenges, such as more single-parent households, medications may be more available than access to behavioral treatments, there may be more logistical issues with nonpharmaceutical interventions, like getting time off from work," Adesman said. "Many more families have access to prescription medications than to non-pharmaceutical interventions. There's a lack of mental health treatment parity.

"It's encouraging that children who are identified as taking prescription medications are benefiting from those medications," Adesman said. However, he added, "There are nonpharmaceutical treatments for virtually all psychiatric diagnoses in children. For households where a child has significant emotional or behavioral difficulties, counseling, behavior management and some forms of psychotherapy can be helpful as well."

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