Docs prescribe fewer mood-altering drugs for children

Psychotropic drugs are typically prescribed to adults to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues in adults, but doctors prescribe them for children to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other mood disorders.

Now a new study finds the trend to give this types of medication to even the youngest of children is leveling off.

"When you recognize the illness we're now beginning to put behavioral programs and get school interventions that may be able to spare children from having to go on medications and I think that explains a lot of the leveling off, which I do think is a good thing," said Dr. Joe Austerman, a child psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Childrens' Hospital.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital researchers looked at nearly 50 thousand kids between two and five years old, and examined 15 years of data on which psychotropic drugs were prescribed to them, and discovered a peak in prescriptions between 2002 and 2005, but a slight decrease since then.

Boys, older kids, and those lacking private insurance were more likely to receive them, which is why researchers say more studies are needed. They'd also like to figure out what is causing the decrease in prescriptions.

It's important for parents to get their child evaluated at an early age, so they can get the appropriate treatment, Austerman said.

"Getting the diagnosis doesn't mean that you're going to get a medication. We're more now pushing toward behavior management, maybe in combination with some medication, but not necessarily so."

Complete findings for this study are in the journal "Pediatrics."