Drug companies and some psychiatrists are at pains to sell this nation on the notion of childhood mental illness. The treatment of mental illness, according to these folks, involves a regimen of powerful psychiatric drugs. The problem with this treatment is that it has often proven more damaging than the illness it was supposed to treat. The most recent manifestation of the evidense for this damage comes from a study showing excessive weight gain in children and adolescents.
As reported earlier this month in a New York Times story, Weight Gain Associated With Antipsychotic Drugs:
Young children and adolescents who take the newest generation of antipsychotic medications risk rapid weight gain and metabolic changes that could lead to diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses, according to the biggest study yet of first-time users of the drugs.
The study, to be published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 257 young children and adolescents in New York City and on Long Island added 8 to 15 percent to their weight after taking the pills for less than 12 weeks.
The patients, ages 4 to 19, added an average of one to one-and-a-half pounds a week.
A parent is better off managing a child thought to be psychotic without the use these drugs than that same parent would be risking the metabolic changes, any one of which could cut short a life, that come of the use of drugs that increase weight so dramatically. Focusing on diet and exercise is ignoring the real culprit in these cases.
Their mean weight at the start of the study period was 118 pounds. But after about 11 weeks, those who took Zyprexa had gained 18.7 pounds; Seroquel, 13.4 pounds; Risperdal, 11.7 pounds; and Abilify, 9.7 pounds.
Their waists typically expanded three inches with Zyprexa, and two inches with the others.
This article points out that the use of these drugs in treating children has been steadily climbing. A study from 2008 found that 15% of the patients treated with these antipsychotic drugs were under 19 years of age in 2005 as opposed to 7% in 1996.
Note that this is a more than doubling of the rate of children on these drugs in a period of less than 10 years time. I imagine we are getting this result because that many more children are being diagnosed as having serious mental disorders. Were these children allowed to be children, in many instances, I don’t think you’d be having this kind of result.
Let me close by pointing out that if the rate of antipsychotic drug use in children can increase, that rate can also decline.