Why Does Johnny Take So Many Pills?
Rushton and colleagues found that the number of children and adolescents
(age 19 and under) in their study who were taking stimulants rose from just
over 9,000 in 1990 to more than 135,000 in 1998. Over the same period, the
proportion of Medicaid recipients age 6 to 14 on Ritalin or similar drugs rose
from almost 3% to nearly 11%.
The researchers also saw a fall in the average age of kids taking
antidepressants from 15 years to 13 years. Boys received stimulants three times
more often than girls throughout the '90s. Girls had a two-to-one edge over
boys in taking antidepressants in 1990, but by 1998 the boys had caught up.
Hispanics were less likely than others to be on stimulants, and whites were
more likely than others to be on antidepressants.
"Prescriptions for stimulants and [antidepressants] have increased
dramatically for children and adolescents during the 1990s," the authors
write. "Prescriptions continue to increase ... In addition, combination
therapy has become a common practice." They also write that future research
must determine why this is happening.
- New research shows that over the past 10 years, young, low-income patients
in North Carolina have been getting more prescriptions for stimulants and
- In interpreting the findings, the researchers say there could be three
explanations: more kids are being discovered with, and treated for, mental
problems; drugs are replacing other therapies for established patients; or
simply too many prescriptions are being written.
- The authors add that doctors and parents should be careful with medicating
children. Some experts feel treating these children needs to take a
comprehensive approach. Observers add, however, that when used properly, these
medications have helped a lot of children with their illnesses.