Antidepressant Use Soaring Among U.S. Children, Teens
Antidepressant use among children and teens "soared" between 1988 and 1994, according to a new study presented today at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the study, which tracked 900,000 youths ages two to 19, found threefold to fivefold increases in antidepressant use among young people during the seven-year period. Using data collected from Medicaid programs in two unnamed states and one HMO, the study found that in 1994, about 1.8% of children enrolled in the Medicaid programs and about 1.3% of the children in the HMO used antidepressants. The rate of antidepressant use increased with age, ranging from about 0.2% in children ages two to four to 3% or 4% for teens ages 15 to 19. Study author Julie Zito, an associate professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Maryland, said that not all of the children were prescribed the drugs to treat depression; some used them for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Ritter, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 5/9). Zito said that the "sharp" increase in the use of antidepressants among young people could "reflect a needed increase after years of underrecognition and undertreatment" of mental disorders or indicate that "the drugs are being overused." Dr. Joseph Coyle, chair of psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School, said that he "suspects" an increased awareness and diagnosis of depression in youths prompted the increase. In addition, he said that depression "is the most common serious psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents," adding that the rate of depression increases through adolescence (AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 5/9).