More and more children in Germany are being prescribed psychiatric drugs

More and more children in Germany are being prescribed psychiatric drugs

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New numbers: Doctors are prescribing more and more psychiatric drugs to children
According to a new study, the number of children taking psychiatric drugs is increasing. However, the researchers have not clarified why more and more adolescents are taking such drugs. According to health experts, such drugs are in many cases superfluous.

Frequency of psychological abnormalities did not increase
An estimated ten to 20 percent of all children and adolescents worldwide suffer from impairments in their mental health. In Germany, health experts have also expressed concern about children with mental health problems in recent years. However, recent data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) study on the health of children and adolescents (KiGGS) give no indication that the frequency of psychological abnormalities increased between 2003–2006 and 2009–2012. Nevertheless, the number of adolescents taking psychiatric drugs has continued to increase in recent years. This emerges from a new study that was published in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt.

More children are given psychiatric drugs
In order to arrive at their results, the Cologne-based researchers - based on the nationwide data from the statutory health insurance companies - analyzed the prescription and re-prescription rates as well as the first prescribing doctor groups for all psychotropic drugs in over four million children and adolescents aged between 0 and 17 years. Herbal or homeopathic remedies were not considered in the study. According to the scientists, around 20 percent of all adolescents in Germany have evidence of psychological abnormalities. According to the information, in 2012 around 27 out of 1,000 children were prescribed drugs such as antidepressants or the ADHD drug Ritalin. In 2004 there were 20 out of 1,000. Ritalin in particular is repeatedly criticized. The Swiss UN consultant Pascal Rudin even said that the remedy is almost always superfluous.

The reason for the increase has not been clarified
Results of an investigation were published back in 2014, according to which more and more psychiatric drugs are being prescribed for children. The data at that time came from insured members of the Barmer GEK. The current study does not clearly show why the proportion of adolescents who received at least one prescription for psychotropic drugs has increased so much. According to the researchers, the reasons can be “varied”. "The analysis of the data shows that the increase in psychopharmaceutical prescriptions is not due to an increase in newly treated children and adolescents, but that more patients who have already received therapy will receive psychopharmaceutical therapy again in the following years," it says in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt.

Help children with social and educational measures
Ingrid Schubert from the University of Cologne, who worked on the study, said that it could not be derived from the data that the chances of recovery for the treated children and adolescents had worsened: “I would not go that far. You could also say that they may be treated more sensibly because they are more consistent, ”said the scientist, according to a message from the dpa news agency. According to the information, the new prescriptions of methylphenidate (Ritalin) for ADHD in Germany have been falling slightly since 2008. However, the researcher finds it worrying that the number of treatments with antipsychotics has increased in children. "Some of these are very potent drugs that are used in schizophrenia." The study authors are calling for additional guidelines for doctors, especially when it comes to antipsychotics. In addition, critical awareness had to be created. It is important to recognize the psychological stress of children and adolescents at an early stage and to help them with social or educational measures before medication becomes necessary. (ad)

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