A recent issue (2-23-2000) of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported a large-scale study of 200,000 pre-school aged children that showed a significant increase in drugs prescribed for a variety of problem issues and especially for ADD and hyperactivity.

Between 1991 and 1995, prescriptions of psychiatric drugs,especially Ritalin and SSRI antidepressants, such as Prozac,increased 50%, from 100,000 to 150,000, for 2- to 4-year-old children. Four year olds consumed 60% of the medicine, three year olds took 30%, and 10% of the scripts were written for two-year-old children. Substantial increases in medicine usage was reported for all drug categories studied except antipsychotics. Researchers were particularly concerned with the substantial increase in the use of clonidine, a high blood pressure and insomnia medicine for adults,for the control of hyperactive children. When combined with other attention deficit medications, some children were reported to have slowed heart rates and fainting spells.

A number of reasons were suggested for this increased use of medication in children. The “quick fix” mentality of much of our culture has permeated health and mental health care. Parents are being pressured more and more to have their children conform to the behavioral control demands of day-care. Doctors are getting better at diagnosing behavior disorders at an earlier age. Overall, there is much greater acceptance of the use of psychotropic drugs now versus 10 years ago.