Hundreds of South Australian children on anti-psychotic drugs

Tony Shepherd, Health reporter

From: The Advertiser

March 28, 2010 10:22pm

HUNDREDS of South Australian children have been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs with dangerous side effects, according to Department of Health and Ageing data.

The statistics show the drugs, meant for psychoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar mood disorder, were prescribed to almost 200 children under 10, some as young as four.

University of Adelaide child psychiatrist Dr Jon Jureidini said the use of anti-psychotics was increasing, and that it was “irresponsible and dangerous” to prescribe such powerful drugs for children without real need.

He said the vast majority of the prescriptions would be “off-label”, meaning the drugs were being used for purposes they were not recommended for. “It would almost all be for behaviour control in children. As far as the legal situation’s concerned they should only be prescribed when children have severe development disorder but in fact they are used more broadly than that,” he said.

“This particular case of off-label prescribing is troublesome because it’s not based on good evidence – it’s using very dangerous drugs for dubious benefit.”

Dr Jureidini said the side effects of the drugs were often metabolic, leading to serious weight gain and diabetes, and could, in rare cases, be fatal. He also said it was very unlikely the children taking the drugs actually had a psychosis.

“It is possible that maybe one out of all those kids under 10 has some kind of psychotic syndrome, but psychosis is extraordinarily rare in primary school-aged children,” he said, adding that what doctors should be doing was trying to understand the reasons behind children’s disruptive behaviour.

In SA in 2007-08, more than 700 people aged 18 and under were prescribed anti-psychotics. In all age groups, 26,800 patients had at least one prescription filled for one of a range of anti-psychotic drugs that are used to treat psychoses.

Nationally almost 300,000 patients were on anti-psychotics.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights – a Church of Scientology group “dedicated to investigating and exposing psychiatric violations of human rights” – provided the statistics to The Advertiser, which then took them to the Department of Health and Ageing. The department verified the accuracy of the figures, confirming they produced them.

More can be found in Category Mental Health.

Also see CCHR International.

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