WHITE HOUSE: Seeks To Curb Psychiatric Drug Use for Kids
The Clinton administration announced plans today to curb the growing use of psychiatric drugs, such as Ritalin and Prozac, among preschoolers. The move comes in response to a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found "an acute increase in the number of preschoolers taking psychotropic drugs." The White House effort will include: informing parents and school administrators about the risks of these drugs; the FDA issuing new drug labels; the NIH undertaking a national, $6 million study examining the effects of such drugs on children under six; and the White House holding a conference in the fall on the "diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in very young children," the New York Times reports. Also, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and federal officials will meet with parents, pediatricians, psychiatrists and other professionals to discuss the matter.
More Therapy, Fewer Drugs
The federal government already has issued a new guide for parents of children with mental disorders, urging them to include behavioral and/or family therapy, in addition to medications. Dr. Steven Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agreed, saying, "As a rule of thumb, doctors, psychologists and social workers should attempt to modify the behavior of a child and deal with family crises before drugs are prescribed." Noting that many mood disorders and anxieties begin in childhood, Hyman said, "[T]he younger a child is, the more difficult it is to make a diagnosis of mental disorder with certainty" because children under six are "usually not articulate, their brains and behavior are changing rapidly and they are very reactive to their environment" (Pear, 3/20).