Mental Health Medication Use on the Rise among Children and Teens

More children and teenagers may be using multiple psychiatric medications.

News Picture: More Kids, Teens May Be Taking Multiple Psychiatric Meds

Is the use of psychiatric medication on the rise among children and teens? According to a recent study conducted in Maryland, the answer is yes. The research found that an increasing number of children and teens covered by Medicaid are taking multiple psychiatric medications, a trend known as “polypharmacy.” This study sheds light on a concerning issue that might be happening elsewhere as well.

The study, led by Yueh-Yi Chiang, a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, analyzed prescription data for nearly 127,000 Medicaid enrollees under the age of 18 between 2015 and 2020. The results revealed that the percentage of those receiving multiple psychiatric drugs increased from 4.2% in 2015 to 4.6% in 2020. This translates to a 4% increased odds of psychotropic polypharmacy per year during the study period.

Interestingly, the study also uncovered that individuals with disabilities or in foster care were more likely to receive three or more overlapping psychotropic classes for 90 days or more. Polypharmacy among children in foster care rose from 10.8% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2020.

What could be driving this rise in polypharmacy? The research team suggests that factors such as complex medical conditions, early-life trauma, and fragmented care may contribute to these findings. However, further investigation is needed to fully understand the underlying reasons behind this trend.

To put things into perspective, previous studies conducted nationwide have also indicated similar trends. For example, one study found that in 2015, 40.7% of individuals between the ages of 2 and 24 who were taking medication for ADHD were also taking a second psychiatric drug. These findings highlight the need for careful monitoring of the use of psychotropic combinations, especially among vulnerable populations, such as youths enrolled in Medicaid with disabilities or who are in foster care.

While this study provides valuable information on the increasing use of psychiatric medications among children and teens, it also raises important questions and concerns. Let’s address some of these through a Q&A format:

Q: Are there any potential risks associated with polypharmacy?

A: Yes, using multiple psychiatric medications simultaneously can increase the risk of adverse effects and drug interactions. It is crucial for healthcare providers to carefully assess the potential benefits and risks before prescribing multiple psychotropic drugs.

Q: What alternatives are available to reduce the reliance on psychiatric medications?

A: Non-pharmacological interventions, such as therapy and counseling, can be effective in managing mental health conditions, especially when used in conjunction with medication. It’s important to explore a holistic approach that considers lifestyle changes, social support, and coping mechanisms.

Q: How can parents or caregivers ensure the safe use of psychiatric medications for their children?

A: Open communication with healthcare providers is vital. Parents should ask questions about the necessity and potential side effects of medications. They should also keep a record of all prescribed medications and report any concerning symptoms or changes observed in their children.

Q: What role does mental health stigma play in the use of psychiatric medications?

A: Mental health stigma may hinder individuals from seeking help or discussing their concerns openly. This can result in delayed treatment or inappropriate medication use. Addressing and challenging stigma is critical in promoting holistic and personalized mental health care.

Now, let’s delve into some additional insights and viewpoints regarding mental health medication use:

A contrasting viewpoint suggests that while polypharmacy should be monitored, it may be necessary in some cases. Certain mental health conditions may require a combination of medications to effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The key is to ensure individualized treatment plans that consider the unique needs of each patient.

Moreover, ongoing debates in the scientific community revolve around the long-term effects of psychiatric medications on developing brains. Some studies suggest potential risks, while others emphasize the benefits of early intervention. It is essential to consider these differing perspectives when making treatment decisions for children and adolescents.

To provide more credibility to the information presented, here are some relevant references to specific studies and resources:

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness – Children and Psychiatric Medication
  2. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry – Medication for Children and Adolescents
  3. National Institute of Mental Health – Mental Health Medications

Now, let’s wrap up this article by emphasizing the importance of understanding and monitoring the use of psychiatric medications among children and teens. It’s crucial for healthcare providers, parents, and caregivers to work collaboratively, ensuring the safe and appropriate use of medications while considering alternative interventions. By addressing mental health needs holistically and debunking stigma, we can provide the best possible care for the younger generation.

Remember, knowledge is power, so share this article with others to spread awareness about mental health medication use among children and teens.


Reference List: – Ernie Mundell. (2024, February 16). More Kids, Teens May Be Taking Multiple Psychiatric Meds. HealthDay. Link – National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Children and Psychiatric Medication. Link – The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (n.d.). Medication for Children and Adolescents. Link – National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Mental Health Medications. Link

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