Doctors know best? – 

Nov. 17, 2020 – In the group of children prescribed polypharmacy regimens, antipsychotics increased from 38.3% of the children in 1999-2004 to 75% of the children in 2011-2015. The percentage of children prescribed mood stabilizers decreased from 61.2% to 37.98% over the same time period. Antidepressant use fell slightly, from 71.3% at the first time point to 64.2% in the most recent measurement.

The most common drug class being prescribed, though, was stimulants (such as Adderall and Ritalin), which peaked in the 2005-2010 time period at 82.1% before falling slightly to 78.1% most recently.

At all time points, the most common diagnosis among children prescribed polypharmacy regimens was ADHD. At the most recent time point, over 85% of the children taking multiple drugs had a diagnosis of ADHD. The next most common diagnosis was mood disorders (which include depression and bipolar disorder)—60% at the most recent time point. Despite the prevalence of antipsychotic prescriptions, only 1% of the children had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

This diagnostic trend may reflect the increasing prevalence of bipolar disorder diagnoses in children, which experts say has been over-diagnosed. The increasing prevalence of bipolar diagnoses may also be caused by the mania-inducing effects of stimulant drugs (used for ADHD treatment), which could account for the overlap of children with ADHD and mood disorder diagnoses. Antidepressants can also cause mania, which may lead to further prescriptions of mood stabilizers or antipsychotics.

In 1999-2004, no children between the ages of 0-4 were identified as being prescribed multiple psychiatric medications. The same held true for the 2005-2010 time point. However, by the latest time point, 1.3% of the children being prescribed polypharmacy regimens were between the ages of 0-4. This signifies a growing trend of prescribing multiple psychiatric drugs to infants and toddlers.

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