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This recent research summary draws one conclusion, and suggests more
research is needed. before making any. See my comments after the summary.
The hilights below
are mine. - Peter Gerlach, MSW
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US children are substantially more likely to be prescribed drugs for mental
conditions than their peers in the Netherlands and Germany, new research
The findings raise questions about treatment of mental health issues among
US children that should be answered, Dr. Julie M. Zito of the University of
Maryland in Baltimore, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.
"We don't know if the big numbers are good and the small numbers are bad or
the reverse," she said in an interview.
What's more, Zito added,
data on the safety and effectiveness of these drugs
in kids remains sparse. "We have almost no information on outcomes in
children in the community."
More and more children are taking these so-called psychotropic medications,
with the most common being stimulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics,
Zito and her team write in the online journal Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry and Mental Health. They looked at the rates of use of these
medications in children in the three countries to better understand the
influence of regulations, clinical practices and social factors.
The researchers reviewed 2000 data on 110,944 people aged 0 to 19 in the
Netherlands, 356,520 young people in Germany, and 127,157 in the US. All had
US children were the most likely to be medicated, with 6.7% taking a
prescription psychotropic, compared to 2.9% of Dutch youngsters and 2% of
American kids were
also more likely to be on multiple drugs; 19.2% of those
who were taking the medications were taking two or more, compared to 8.5% of
young people in the Netherlands and 5.9% of those in Germany.
Overall, the researchers found, young people in the US were at least three
times as likely as those in Europe to be prescribed antidepressants or
stimulant drugs and about twice as likely to be taking antipsychotic drugs.
The reasons behind the national differences remain unclear, Zito notes. "We
think culture plays something of a role. Certainly American physicians have
long been known to be more intensive in treatment protocols than Europeans,"
However, Zito added, psychiatric training and diagnostic practices in the US
are very similar to those in Western Europe.
More research is needed, she said, to clarify guidelines for treatment of
children taking psychotropic medications, to ensure that they are getting
comprehensive care. If children's mental health problems are symptomatic of
larger social issues in the US, Zito added, medication alone may not be the
best way to deal with them.
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This cross-cultural research raises more questions than it answers. This
mass-media summary risks wide misinterpretation by casual readers. Yahoo News offered no perspective
on this summary, and let readers draw their own conclusion.
This summary doesn't say how the kids in the study were selected - randomly
or otherwise. Nor does it include demographic info on the sample - e.g.
parents intact, dead, or divorced; level of family income and parental
education; type of family; family religion; urban, rural, or clinical
residence, ethnic percentages, etc.
Because there is often shame associated with needing medicine for kids'
psychological problems, the study's statistics may under-reported and lower
Whatever these variables, the researches concluded that almost 7% of the
U.S. kids sampled took one or more "mental health" medications -
significantly more than German and Dutch kids. The lead researcher said
there is "almost no information" on
the outcome of the drug prescriptions in any country.
There is no way to guesstimate from this data how many average U.S.
children "0 to 19" use psychotropic medications, or what they use them for.
If adult behaviors are comparable, we can guess that many kids who might
benefit from such medication are not prescribed it, for whatever reason -
e.g. parental ignorance, apathy, denial, and/or financial constraints. So the
percentage of kids on medications in the general U.S. population may be
significantly higher than 6.7%.
There is also no way to draw any conclusion from this data about average
American kids being more "mentally ill" than their Dutch and German peers,
tho a casual reader might infer such a conclusion.
These findings invite research into why American kids have "more
mental health problems" than their European peers. After
clinical study, I propose that such
problems are symptoms of kids
from their ancestors - i.e. of major family dysfunction.
For more perspective, see these other Lesson-1
research summaries, and
these Yahoo (online) Q&A posts from
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your