Increased use of psychotropic drugs in children

Increase in psychiatric prescription in children

The prescription of psychiatric drugs to children and adolescents has continued to increase. As the Techniker Krankenkasse found in a current analysis of the medical data of their insured, more and more children are being given medicines to treat mental problems such as depression, aggression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD).

According to the numbers of the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), the prescription of psychotropic drugs in children and adolescents increased dramatically between 2006 and 2010. In 2006, for example, the number of people insured with TK between the ages of six and 17 years who were taking medicines for the treatment of ADHD was around 20,000. In 2010, 29,000 TK insureds of the appropriate age group received psychotropic drugs for ADHD, which corresponds to a full 32 percent increase, according to the results of the current TK study.

According to the TK, a large part of the psychotropic drugs in children and adolescents was prescribed for the so-called Zappelphilipp syndrome. The disease, known as ADHD, is by far the most frequently diagnosed psychological impairment among adolescents. But also against aggression or depression, drugs were used to an increasing extent. For example, the prescription of risperidone, an active ingredient in the treatment of behavioral disorders such as uncontrolled aggression, has also risen significantly.

Use of psychotropic drugs in children extremely controversial The use of psychiatric drugs in children and adolescents is still not uncontroversial among experts. Nevertheless, the number of prescriptions has skyrocketed in recent years. In particular, the prescription of methylphenidate or methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin) for the treatment of ADHD shows a worrying development, according to TK figures. The 32 percent increase also suggests prescription practice is too frivolous. At Risperidon, the number of prescriptions has also increased noticeably. The number of children treated with risperidone rose from 682 in 2006 to 1,532 in 2010, reports the TK. Accordingly, the number of children affected "more than doubled after adjustment for insurance." According to the experts at the Techniker Krankenkasse, it is also striking that, with prescriptions for antidepressants also increasing, a fifth of the prescriptions identified medications that should not be used in children and adolescents. Many of the antidepressants were also prescribed by non-specialist doctors such as general practitioners.

Impending side effects and late effects for children from psychiatric drugs Since the late effects and long-term effects of the use of psychiatric drugs have so far been insufficiently researched, the medical doctor Prof. Hannsjörg Seyberth, Chairman of the Commission for Drug Safety in Childhood of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, assesses the significant increase of the prescriptions particularly critical. The impending immediate side effects of methylphenidate or Ritalin include headaches, abdominal pain, excitement, nausea, cognitive impairments, depressed moods and the triggering and intensification of existing non-controllable, recurring motor contractions of individual muscles or muscle groups (Tic`s). According to TK experts, anxiety, loss of appetite and effects on children's growth can also be possible consequences of the active ingredient methylphenidate. Instead of rashly prescribing adolescent psychotropic drugs, alternative therapeutic options such as psychotherapy or behavioral therapy should therefore be used, the expert demanded. According to Seyberth, "children today are under enormous family and school pressure to function," which also explains the increase in psychological complaints. Combating behavioral problems immediately with medication is the wrong way, according to the chairman of the commission for drug safety in childhood.

Nearly two tons of ADHD medication a year In view of the massive increase in prescriptions for ADHD medication, the Federal Joint Committee (joint self-administration made up of doctors and health insurers, G-BA) only changed the drug guidelines for prescribing corresponding psychotropic drugs at the end of last year. Since then, doctors have only been able to prescribe medications such as Ritalin and Co. if other therapeutic measures have been used beforehand, but have remained unsuccessful. The G-BA emphasized that far from every particularly active child has ADHD, and that, if diagnosed accordingly, drug treatment can often be avoided through therapeutic measures. How much of the corresponding medicinal products are actually prescribed today can be seen from figures from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, which states that the prescription amount of the active ingredient methylphenidate in Germany in 2009 was 1,735 kilograms. A rethink of the medical profession seems to be urgently needed here. (fp)

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