October 8, 2008

US kids more medicated than Europeans

[Posted: Sat 27/09/2008 by Deborah Condon]

Children in the US are around three times more likely to be prescribed mood altering drugs than children in Europe, the results of a new study indicate.

A team of researchers from the US, Germany and the Netherlands examined the prescription levels of psychotropic drugs in the three countries. Psychotropic drugs include antidepressants, sedatives and tranquillisers.

“Antidepressant and stimulant prevalence were three or more times greater in the US than in the Netherlands and Germany, while antipsychotic (drug) prevalence was 1.5 to 2.2 times greater,” explained lead researcher, Julie Zito.

The use of antidepressants and stimulants in children continues to be an issue of controversy. The researchers believe that the differences between the US and western Europe may be due to regulatory practices and cultural beliefs about the role of medication in emotional and behavioural problems.

They also refer to government cost restrictions in Europe, the larger number of child psychiatrists per capita in the US and the use of two or more different psychotropic drugs in a single year in US children as possible explanations for the different prescribing rates.

“Direct to consumer drug advertising, which is common in the US, is also likely to account for some of the differences. The increased use of medication in the US also reflects the individualist and activist therapeutic mentality of US medical culture,” Ms Zito added.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.