CHILDREN under three years old are being given
anti-psychotic drugs suitable only for adults.
5 per cent of Australian pediatricians have prescribed
anti-psychotic drugs for children under three.
The study has confirmed significant numbers of toddlers are
taking anti-depressants, including Prozac, behaviour stimulants and
A Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study found 6 per cent of
Australia's 631 child psychologists and pediatricians had prescribed
Ritalin and other mood stimulants to children under three.
Five per cent of the doctors also prescribed anti-psychotic
drugs, including Serenace and Melleril, to children under three.
Between 2 and 3 per cent had written scripts for anti-depressants
including Prozac and Zoloft to infants aged three and under.
Royal Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr Daryl Efron, who headed
the soon to be published study, said the results were concerning and
highlighted the need for more research on the effects of such drugs
given to children.
Almost half the doctors surveyed said they had on occasion
supplied psychotropic drugs to children aged under five.
Dr Efron said while no serious or long-term side effects of the
drugs on very young children had been proved, problems may not
become apparent for another 10 years.
"The brain is still developing in the early years. It's is one of
those areas where clinical practice is going ahead of research," he
About 80 per cent of prescription medications have not been
formally tested on children but are often prescribed by doctors.
Some psychotropic prescriptions for the mental management of
children are "off label" drugs carrying recommendations that they
are not to be used by, or have not been proved safe for, children.
"Some will say these drugs have not been shown to be safe in
children under 12 or not recommended for children under 12," Dr
Efron said. The Australia-wide survey had confirmed speculation that
such drugs were being given to very young children on a fairly
"I wouldn't use the word dangerous or crisis, I would say they
are of concern," Dr Efron said.
While doctors used a range of measures to help depressed children
or those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder,
prescription drugs were becoming more readily administered.
"Pediatricians and child psychologists are seeing more and more
of these children with complex behavioural problems," he said. It
was unclear why more children were now experiencing such problems,
but social changes were at the heart of the increase.
"There is probably a lot of reasons, family dislocation, loss of
extended family," he said.
Dr Efron supports a six-month extension for drug manufacturers to
protect their monopoly on newly-introduced