I am in shock. Total disbelief.
An analysis of 2013 IMS Data, found that over 274,000 infants (0-1 year olds) and some 370,000 toddlers (1-3 years age) in the U.S. were on antianxiety (e.g. Xanax) and antidepressant (e.g. Prozac) drugs. This report also found over 1,400 infants were on ADHD drugs. (source: Wall Street Journal)
What are infants and toddlers doing on Prozac and Xanax?
I can only assume parents and the doctors that prescribe these drugs to infants and toddlers only want for the children to be happy…but WTF? Happiness doesn’t come in a pill.
I don’t even know how you could tell if an infant needed these drugs.
We live in a culture that can be rough and unsupportive. It can lack nurturing for both adults and children. People can feel displaced, unloved, worried, anxious at all ages. It is true. Yet the solutions for our youngest population is the simplest. It is much easier to nurture an infant (maybe less easy to nurture a strong-willed toddler) and support positive behavior than an adult.
We all just want to be loved. This is especially true for babies and toddlers. Can Prozac and Xanax be a substitute for love?
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
Prescriptions of powerful antipsychotics such as Risperdal for infants and very young children have also sharply risen. Office visits for childhood bipolar disorder have risen 40-fold over the past decade in the U.S…
Are psychiatric diagnoses reliable in such young children? Why are tens of thousands of children getting drugs outside guidelines? What is the most humane way to manage behavior changes in children?
The causes are debatable but our culture of “a pill for every temper tantrum” is one culprit. While there are effective nondrug behavioral therapies for preschoolers, access and incentives are not aligned to prioritize them. We also need to invest more in building resilience.
This is a complex problem but as the social reformer Frederick Douglass noted over a hundred years ago, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights further extrapolates he data:
And as for other age groups, the numbers start in the millions with 0-5 year olds:
- The total number of 0-5 year olds currently prescribed psychiatric drugs is 1,080,168.
- The number of 6-12 year olds on psychiatric drugs is 4,130,340.
- The number of 13-17 year olds taking psychiatric drugs is 3,617,593.
The above are stunning data and, yet, the most egregious element of the ever-increasing number of America’s children being prescribed psychiatric drugs, is that the diagnosis needed in order to have the drugs prescribed, is subjective—there is no medical test to support or validate even one psychiatric diagnosis. As Allen Frances, a psychiatrist and former DSM-IV Task Force Chairman, stated, “There are no objective tests in psychiatry—no X-ray, laboratory or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder. There is no definition of mental disorder. It’s bull…. I mean you just can’t define it.”
This is so disheartening, and I can’t believe doctors could even prescribe psychiatric drugs in such large numbers to such young children.
Many of children’s negative behaviors can be solved through love and environmental changes. If we truly are finding such astounding numbers of mental illness in children 0-5 years old, then we as a culture need to reflect on how we are supporting and nurturing this population. Something has to change to stop this trend of giving psychiatric drugs like Xanax and Prozac to toddlers and infants.