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Children Prescribed Potent Psychiatric Drugs

Statement by a Concerned Canadian School Social Worker

This statement was written by a Social Worker in a Canadian school. The author expresses concern about the increasing use of psychiatric drugs for Canadian children, and wishes to remain anonymous because of her position.

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Psychiatric Drugs Prescribed to Children Increasingly Potent

A school social worker in a large metropolitan city in Canada is concerned about the thousands of children and adolescents who are being treated with potent psychiatric drugs for behavioural and emotional problems.

Ritalin was Once Infrequent

While the use of Ritalin was once infrequent among children and it was unknown to put a child or adolescent on anti-psychotic medication or even antidepressants, these drugs are now commonly prescribed by family doctors and psychiatrists.

“John” Prescribed Ritalin at Age 5

John, age 10, is a common example. He was put on Ritalin at age 5 by his family doctor, who noted he was extremely busy but could not find any other problems with him. His behaviour got worse instead of better, and by age 8, the doctor had added an atypical off-label anti-psychotic drug, Risperdal. Risperdal was to be used in addition to his Ritalin prescription, which had now increased in dosage from 5 mg. to 15 mg. three times a day, seven days a week.

Risperdal Added to Counter Side Effects

John’s mother was also told to give him Clonidine, an anti-hypertensive drug to help him sleep. A year later, the doctor increased the dosage of the Risperdal prescription to 1 mg. three times a day due to temper outbursts. In John’s case, he appeared to be experiencing increased aggressivity and increased lability as a result of adverse drug reactions. A year later, he was prescribed an anti-depressant in addition to all the other psychiatric drugs he was on.

Anti-psychotic Drug Prescriptions for Children Increasing

Many children, like John, are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Canada. A Vanderbilt University Medical Center study published in 2004 was the first to investigate the increase in anti-psychotic drug use among children and teens in the U.S. They reported that about 2.5 million children in the U.S. are on anti-psychotic medication, and a large percentage of the prescriptions were written for children and youth with ADHD as the primary diagnosis.

ADHD Drugs Increased 45% in Five Years

According to IMS Health Canada, the use of ADHD drugs increased 45.4 per cent across Canada over a five-year period (1999–2004). There are no current figures on the numbers of youth on anti-psychotic drugs or antidepressants in Canada though every mental health professional in Canada is aware there are numerous children on a multiple of psychiatric drugs.

Serious Risks & Side Effects

There are very real concerns about the safety of psychiatric drugs for children. Health Canada has not approved the safety or efficacy of atypical anti-psychotic medications, such as Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel or Geodon in Canada.

Weight Gain & Diabetes

The Federal Drug Administration in the U.S. has warned that their use is associated with an increased risk of weight gain and diabetes.

Self-injury & Suicide in Children

On Feb. 2, 2004, Health Canada issued a public warning that the pediatric use of seven anti-depressants Paxil, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Luvox, Remeron, Zoloft and Effexor increased the risk of self-injury and suicide in children. The safety of stimulants has also been questioned recently. On May 26, 2006, Health Canada warned that ADHD drugs can cause cardiovascular complications.

Clinical Trials Show Risks Include Suicidality & Aggression

There have been numerous clinical trials and studies by experts that show that psychiatric drugs, stimulants, as well as anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic drugs pose serious risks to children and adolescents. Some of the effects include agitation, irritability, conduct problems, suicidality and aggression.

Side Effects Misinterpreted by Doctors

Doctors often misinterpret those effects and tend to increase the youth’s dosage or add another drug. Non-drug alternatives are rarely considered anymore due to the prevailing false belief that all behaviour and emotional problems in children are biologically based, the result of a chemical imbalance.

Driven by Profit

The driving force behind this movement are drug firms who are profiting from the thousands of troubled children who are being prescribed potent psychiatric drugs. Where is Health Canada or the Provincial Health Ministry in their role of protecting the children of Canada?

See the related article, Citalopram (Celexa) in children and adolescents for depression: What we knew and when.

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PMAG does not provide individual advice or respond to individual requests for assistance. We encourage you to seek qualified medical support. More…


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Updated: January 15, 2024