USE OF BEHAVIORAL DRUGS
ON KIDS SOARS - -- SO ARE THE COSTS
|Between the year 2000 and 2003, the amount
of prescription drugs given to children rose
by 23%, according to statistics comprised
by the Medco Health Solutions, a for-profit
company. In itself, this figure is not so
alarming, as the population of children increased
and healthcare got better. What is troublesome
is that much of the increase was caused by
a huge jump in prescrip tions of behavioral
drugs like Adderall and Concerta (which have
side effects of reduced appetite and growth).
For example, prescriptions for ADD/ADHD children age 5 or younger jumped 49%, and for children up to age 19 who are diagnosed with Conduct Disorder or Autism, the amount increased a whopping 71%! For anti-depressant drugs used to treat childhood depressions, the amount increased 21%, even though the drugs have been linked to suicidal tendencies in teens,
In contrast, medications for asthma increased only 15%, and use of antibiotics for infections went up just 4.3%.
At the same time, behavioral drugs are getting more expensive, and have much longer prescription periods than drugs for infections or allergies. This further jacks up the cost of treatment. One result: actual dollars spent on behavioral drugs jumped 369% for just for ADHD children age 5 or younger. In contrast, we spent only 16% more on antibiotics to treat infections in children over the same three-year period.
So the drug companies stand to benefit, while insurance premiums for prescription drugs soar. Of course, the expenses would be justified if the drugs truly and reliably improve the well being of children. But vigorous scrutiny of research data so far says otherwise. If we define improvement by 'bottomline result', i.e., whether the children consistently finish school work, or get better school grades/test scores, etc., these drugs are no better than placebos in the long run, not to mention the potential negative side effects they might cause.
Systematic behavioral and motivation training applied both in the home and in school, coupled with a functional curriculum, remains the best alternative.