There Are Preschoolers With Bipolar Disorder?

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While I knew more and more young adults were being diagnosed with mood disorders and being medicated, it was jarring to read that a quarter of kids under 18 are being medicated too. Startlingly, about one in 70 preschoolers were taking a psychiatric drug like a stimulant, an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, an anti-psychotic, or an anti-anxiety drug, according to a 2007 study.

I’m going to go ahead and say that’s too many.

CNN reports that placing children as young as two years old on psychiatric drugs is still controversial, but that doesn’t change that so many such medication regularly:

In spite of the growing number of young kids taking psychiatric drugs, these medications (with a few exceptions) are not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children under age 6. Why? Because little is known about how they affect the tiny brains and bodies of young children.

“We have very little research to show how psychiatric medications affect the developing nervous system, for instance,” says [Mark Olfson, M.D., a Columbia University psychiatrist and researcher]. “This is a concern.”

What is known: Some medications carry significant side effects. Stimulants may be associated with a slower rate of growth when used consistently over several years. Antipsychotics are linked to rapid weight gain and metabolic and endocrine abnormalities.

The behavior of many children in the piece reads like the standard behavior for toddlers such as moodiness, tantrums, and extreme irritability. Although I don’t doubt for a moment that there could be some two year olds who need to be medicated, it’s concerning to learn that there are increasing numbers of them.

(photo: Shutterstock)