Psychotropic drugs for children and adolescents

Although the scientific community does not agree on the opportunity to use psychoactive products on organisms with a central nervous system still developing, there are over 15 million minors in psychopharmacological therapy , in the world, for the most diverse pathologies, compared to a worrying lack of resources for scientifically validated non-pharmacological therapies.


This is what is stated in a document (attached) by the Sustainability and Health Network (RSS) which intervenes on the issue of the use of psychiatric drugs in developmental age in Italy, examining the international scenario and launching an appeal to the Minister of Health Hope for better appropriateness prescriptive of these molecules.


As the RSS points out , “the administration of psychoactive molecules to children and adolescents presents potential critical issues – both clinical and ethical – on which international literature agrees”. Despite this, the use of antidepressant drugs to treat children and adolescents is growing: in the last 7 years in the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark and Holland it has increased by 40% overall.


worldwide trend , confirmed by a recent study published in the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, whose data shows that in Britain the number of antidepressants prescribed for minors has grown by 54%, 60% in Denmark, 49% in Germany, 26% in the United States and 17% in the Netherlands. The greatest increases were recorded in the age groups between 10 and 19 years, and the most used drugs are citalopram, fluoxetine and sertraline.


Italy is not potentially extraneous to this worrying scenario , although far from the scandals that have occurred in the USA, such as that of the psychotropic drug Paxil®, whose tests of dangerousness for minors have been kept silent by the pharmaceutical company Glaxo.


“The use of antidepressants in young people is worrying – commented Dr. Shekhar Saxena, former Director of the Department of Mental Health and Addictions of the WHO – an aggravated concern that the drugs prescribed to young people in most cases are not authorized for under 18 “.


The Sustainability and Health Network also focuses on the risk of adopting possible “disease mongering” strategies , that is, of artificial modification of the diagnostic criteria to broaden the sales opportunities for psychoactive drugs, with respect to which an adequate registration of the Cases of minors treated with ADHD drugs represents an effective corrective.


The RSS document reports in its conclusions a quotation from the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur, Dr. Dainius Pūras, who underlined in a recent UN report how some structural conditions (poverty, discrimination, violence) are the deepest root causes of mental distress and suffering. To these causes “too often individualized, immediate responses are provided, influenced by an exclusively biomedical paradigm that ignores alternative treatments, underestimates the role of psychotherapy and other psychosocial treatments and, more importantly, does not address the determining factors that contribute to a bad mental health, with over- medicalization particularly harmful to children ”.


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