Children are being prescribed powerful antipsychotic medicines with few precautions, and federal drug experts warned that regulators must do more to inform doctors of their substantial risks.
More than 389,000 children and teenagers were treated last year with Risperdal, a form of medicine known as an atypical antipsychotic. Of those patients, 240,000 were 12 or younger. In many cases, the drug was prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders.
But Risperdal is not approved for attention deficit problems, and its side effects include weight gain, metabolic disorders and muscular tics that can be permanent. According to experts, these risks are too great to justify its use in treating such disorders.
From 1993 through the first three months of 2008, 1,207 children given Risperdal suffered serious problems, including 31 who died.
New York Times November 19, 2008
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
In 2007 alone, half a million children and teenagers were given at least one prescription for an antipsychotic, including 20,500 under the age of 6.
The amount of drugs being given to U.S. children is outrageous, and the extent of the problem becomes clear when you compare the statistics with other countries. U.S. children are getting three times more prescriptions for antidepressants and stimulants, and up to double the amount of antipsychotic drugs than kids from Germany and the Netherlands.
These powerful meds are being given to children not for life-threatening conditions or to treat acute emergencies … they’re being prescribed for behavioral problems such as attention deficit disorder.
Take Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and biopolar disorder in adults, and irritability associated with autistic disorder in children. In many cases, the drug is handed out to children with attention deficit problems, with little concern for its serious and sometimes permanent side effects, which include:
• Increased appetite
• Upper respiratory tract infection
• Vomiting, coughing, fever
• Tremors, muscle stiffness, and anxiety
• Restlessness, dizziness, and indigestion
• Urinary incontinence
These are just the “minor” side effects. More serious effects include:
• Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, which can be fatal
• Tardive Dyskinesia, serious and sometimes permanent muscle tics
• Hormone disruption (including breasts producing milk and breast development in males)
• High blood sugar and diabetes
• Muscle disturbances (restlessness, tremors, muscle stiffness)
Are these risks justified in a child with a behavioral disorder that can often be treated with lifestyle modifications (which I’ll get to later)?
I should think not. Even members of a federal drug panel are concerned.
“The data show there is a substantial amount of prescribing for attention deficit disorder, and I wonder if we have given enough weight to the adverse-event profile of the drug in light of this,” Dr. Daniel Notterman, a senior health policy analyst at Princeton University and a panel member, told the New York Times about Risperdal.
This practice is truly getting out of hand. So widely accepted is the practice of drugging our children that state-mandated, forced medication has become a growing trend.
In one case, without the presence of a single doctor a court decided to put a 6-year-old child with mild autism on five powerful antipsychotic drugs, even though none of the drugs had been approved by the FDA for use in children, and despite the mother’s adamant wishes not to do so.
These powerful drugs are even being prescribed for toddlers as young as 2, whose brains and bodies are not fully developed. Combine these drugs into hefty doses of two, three or more different meds, and the side effects are anybody’s guess.
And antipsychotics are not the only drug class to be concerned about. In any two-week period in the United States, 13 million children take a prescription medication. Of them, over 6 million are taking them for chronic diseases, and the top five of these diseases that children take medications for are asthma, epilepsy, attention deficit disorders, arthritis and diabetes.
What to Do if Your Child Has Attention Deficit Disorder
Behavioral and mental problems in children are very frequently related to improper diet, emotional upset and exposure to toxins. To learn more about this important topic, please view my interview with the late pediatric expert Dr. Lendon Smith.
Next, realize that a drug is not the answer. Most antipsychotic drugs only cover up the symptoms while creating new symptoms of their own. The solution to attention deficit and other behavioral disorders is to address the underlying toxins in your child by doing the following:
1. Give your child plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil.
2. Optimize their vitamin D levels. You can view my one-hour lecture in this issue in which I describe how vitamin D can upregulate over 2,000 genes in your body and many of them are crucial for emotional health.
3. Balance your child’s intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fats (from vegetables oils), by limiting their intake of vegetable oils and providing them with a high-quality animal source of omega-3 fat like krill or fish oil.
4. Avoid giving your child ANY processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
5. Replace soft drinks, fruit juices, and pasteurized milk in your child’s diet with pure water. This is HUGE since high fructose corn syrup is the NUMBER ONE source of calories in children — remember this includes fruit juices!
6. Reduce or eliminate grains and sugars from your child’s diet — yes even healthy organic whole grains can cause problems. Try eliminating them first for 1-2 weeks and see if you don’t notice a radical and amazing improvement in your child’s behavior.
7. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime in the sunshine.
8. Provide your child a way to address his or her emotional stressors. Even children can benefit from the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which you or an EFT practitioner can teach them how to use.