|ANTI-DEPRESSANTS LIFT CHILD'S ENERGY BEFORE THEIR MOOD SO THEY HAVE ENERGY TO CARRY OUT 'BLACK THOUGHTS.'|
The 'happy pill' kids - have greater risk of suicide.by JENNY HOPE, Daily Mail
Last updated at 09:09 18 November 2004
The UK has seen the biggest rise in the world in the prescribing of anti-depressants, say doctors.
Some experts fear that drugs are being given too readily to youngsters.
The first international comparison of countries with high rates of antidepressant use among children reveals the UK is outstripping them all, even the US.
Prescriptions shot up by 68 per cent between 2000 and 2002, compared with the lowest recorded increase of 13 per cent in Germany.
They included prescriptions for ritalin, dubbed the 'chemical cosh' by critics because it is used to calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In a second study, researchers from the University of London found that 25,000 under-18s in the UK had been prescribed anti-depressants during the last decade.
Almost half were for a new generation of drugs called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), says a report today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood medical journal.
The remainder were for old-style anti-depressants called tricylics, which have poor efficacy and high rates of side-effects. Researchers believe the surge in prescribing is caused by doctors becoming more skilled at diagnosing depression in children, but that they are also more ready to use drugs.
Some experts claim that labelling children as depressed may be damaging because it could create a generation who rely on medical treatment rather than learning to cope with emotional problems.
Children under pressure
Dr Ian Wong, of the Centre for Paediatric Pharmacy Research, University of London, said: "In the past, children might have been called shy or naughty when they were actually having mental health problems.
"Today, we recognise that they are in need of help and they are more likely to get it."
He said there is a lack of scientific evidence suggesting today's children are being overwhelmed by 21st century pressures.
"But it's only common sense to recognise there are more pressures on adults, so probably children are under more pressure, for example with school tests." But Dr Wong said there is a worry that drugs are being used to replace non-drug treatments.
He said the observed increase should raise concern, because little research has been conducted to study the effects on children of most psychotropic medications - those that alter perception, emotion, or behaviour. Dr Wong added that the massive increase in prescribing SSRIs to children - up tenfold in the last decade -suggests doctors are prescribing them based on adult research. But 'children are not small adults', he added.
The international study looked at prescriptions for anti-depressants, tranquillisers, stimulants and medication for psychotic episodes in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, US, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. It is estimated more than 50,000 under-18s in the UK have been prescribed Seroxat since it was licensed in 1991, although it was never officially approved for use in children.
Last year, a ban was imposed by Government medical regulators on doctors prescribing most SSRIs to under-18s because of fears that they increase the suicide risk.
Research found youngsters using Seroxat are up to three times more likely to attempt suicide or harm themselves than other depressed children.
Only Prozac may now be used to help children with depression.