Psychopharmaceuticals and children

Psychopharmaceuticals: more research and knowledge needed

In recent years there has been an enormous increase in the use of psychopharmaceuticals by children and adolescents. A few of the findings of the Foundation for Pharmaceutical Statistics [Dutch acronym: SFK] are set out below.

• ADHD drugs (2007): a quarter of users are 10 years old or younger and 44% of users are between 11 and 20 years old. 1
• ADHD drugs (2008): use of these drugs had trebled within the space of five years. 2  
• SSRIs (2009): use by young people under 21 years old fell temporarily after the Medical Evaluation Board issued a warning in 2005. However, it increased again from 2007 onwards. 3 

There has been much less research into the use of drugs by children than by adults. In many cases the drugs are not officially registered for use by children (and are therefore prescribed “off-label” ). This has led to a major debate about the current effects of drugs on children. 4  One positive result of this is that there has been an increasing volume of high-quality clinical research in recent years into the effects of psychopharmaceuticals on children. However, this is a long and highly labour-intensive process and new findings only become available very gradually. In the paediatric world, initiatives have now been undertaken to accelerate this process by setting up national and international research networks. 5 

In view of this, the Dutch Knowledge Centre has set itself the goal of bundling together the continuously developing knowledge on the use of psychopharmaceuticals by children and adolescents, evaluating its quality and keeping it up to date. The available evidence will be used to make recommendations on which drugs can be used and when. In doing so the Knowledge Centre hopes to contribute to optimising the medicinal treatment of children and adolescents with a psychiatric disorder.

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