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CDC: 6% of teens take psychotropic drugs
December 4th, 2013
09:03 AM ET

CDC: 6% of teens take psychotropic drugs

The debate around adolescents and psychotropic drug use may be quieted - ever so slightly - by new data.

More than 6% of adolescents reported using psychotropic medications during the past month, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Six percent is pretty much what I would expect for the prescription of psychotropic medications based on what we know about new disorders and how prevalent they would be among adolescents," said Bruce Jonas, a mental health epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, who compiled the data.

Psychotropic medications are used to alter the mood, behavior or overall functioning of persons with certain mental health conditions.

According to the survey, which accounts for medication use between 2005-2010, adolescents were evenly split between taking antidepressants (3.2%) and drugs to address attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (3.2%), with relatively smaller numbers reporting taking drugs to treat conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

About 8% of 12-17 year olds in the United States have major depression, while about 11% of 4-17 year olds are diagnosed with ADHD, according to federal data.

"It's not unreasonable that about half would be prescribed medication," said Jonas. "Psychotropic medication is not the only avenue if an adolescent is challenged by mood disorders or ADHD.  There could be psychotherapeutic intervention."

"Everyone who is depressed doesn't have to take medication and everyone who has ADD doesn't have to take medication," said Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But Duckworth says he is concerned about a slight downturn in the number of prescriptions for antidepressants among adolescents during the past decade.

Previous CDC data, spanning 1999-2004, reflect 3.7% of adolescents were prescribed antidepressants, compared with 3.2% in the subsequent five years.  By comparison, prescriptions for ADHD medications went up during the same time period.

Black box warnings on antidepressants (requiring, among other things, close monitoring of patients) may have been a deterrent for some primary care doctors who previously prescribed the drugs, said Duckworth.

The black box guidance was issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007.

"I'm not convinced it's a good thing that antidepressants went down after black box warnings," said Duckworth, who is also a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  "It may mean untreated major depression, which is a risk factor for suicide."

The data were compiled as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.


soundoff (681 Responses)
  1. Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

    Odd how the article doesn't mention that dextromethorphan (DXM), which is a completely legal dissociative psychedelic, is freely available in over-the-counter cough preparations. (Although in some states an individual has to be over 18 yo to purchase it.)

    December 4, 2013 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ChristianzMP

    The excerpt "6% of teens take psychotropic drugs" explains how even though drug use of teens is quieted more than 6% of all teens used psychotropic drugs in the past month itself. He states that psychotropic drugs are drugs that alter mood. What the author is trying to say is that not all situations of depression or ADHD require prescribed rugs that are becoming an epidemic in the United States. But the worst part is the number of prescriptions to adolescents.

    In my opinion the author has a point. We all have times where we don't feel as good as we should but that doesn't mean we should consume drugs to alter our mood, even if they are prescribed. The more drugs are being practically handed out to adolescents the more of a concern it is going to become. Maybe it can have long term damages to the person or maybe it raises the risk of people misusing the drugs in ways that may lead to death.

    December 4, 2013 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      I don't know what you're attempting to say here. You seem to be trying to make some sort of point, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what it is.

      Depression and other mental illness isn't just "feeling bad." Medication can be an enormous help and the risk of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of mental illness presents great risks, suicide among them.

      December 5, 2013 at 19:33 | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      "Nobody you know", sounds like NAMI commercial (a Big Pharma sponsored front group). In fact, "depression" is not a disease. The chemical imbalance theory has been thoroughly debunked. Antidepressant drugs have been shown to be no more effective than placebo. Antidepressant drugs are addicting, and have serious side effects. No antidepressant has ever been approved for the treatment of suicidality. In fact, the FDA has warned that antidepressants increase the risk of suicide.

      December 11, 2013 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Nonsense. Antidepressant drugs DO help many people. Cite your sources that show otherwise, and don't even bother with the crunchy granola crowd of charlatans.

      I love it when someone assumes that anyone who doesn't fall into lock-step with you "must be" in league with "Big Pharma." In fact, I have never worked for a pharmaceutical company or in any profession associated with pharma in any way.

      Shows what you know.

      December 13, 2013 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      If antidepressants work for you, fine. But how can you justify their current level of marketing and use when they can have potentially serious side effects, and a questionable risk/benefit ratio?

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2265350/
      "The gist of the new study’s findings is that analysis of published and unpublished data from studies of antidepressants in adults shows that only a very small subset of patients seemed to benefit. Antidepressants “failed to separate” from placebo in almost all instances except among a subset of severely depressed patients. That subset of a subset comprised severely depressed patients—those who scored 23 or higher on the Hamilton rating scale of depression (HRSD). Other studies have found different problems with the antidepressants. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration found safety problems—roughly a doubling of suicidality—among adolescents and young adults using antidepressants. But do we know the truth about antidepressants even now? Or statins? Or any one of many other drugs currently on the market?"

      January 2, 2014 at 02:10 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      Ron, there are just as many studies that show antidepressants DO work, and not just for a "few." But do go ahead with your belief in conspiracy theories about what we "aren't being told" about medications if it makes you feel better.

      January 2, 2014 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
    • Nobody you know

      I really have to wonder, Ron, if you even bothered to read the article. It isn't only about antidepressant medications. Psychotropic drugs include those used to treat a number of other conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as ADHD. Do you think placebos work just as well in those cases? If so, cite your evidence. I don't think you have any.

      January 3, 2014 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
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  6. Hrbgrwr

    How much of the 6 percent prescribed osychotropics to children is for the schools convenence?
    The school psychologist attempted to have my child medicated for her conveyance 10 yrs ago....I remember her stating "I can diagnose ADHD in 5 min and then handed me a piece of paper with a medication written on it....unbeknown to her she was talking to a RN who was working with adult psychiatric pt since 1976....I hade her removed from the elementary school,,,my child was brought to a professional child psychologist who diagnosed him with Dyslexia...and fought the school system to provide the correct teaching methods instead of medicating children for their convenence..As a RN of have very little respect for most teachers who tote the schools policy's and school administrators who's push medicating of children......

    December 6, 2013 at 09:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nobody you know

      You're an RN? And yet, you can't spell "convenience"? As if.

      December 13, 2013 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
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