Psychotropic Medications for Children: Helpful or Harmful?

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Psychotropic Medications for Children: Helpful or Harmful? Children have increasingly been prescribed psychotropic medications over the past decades. Typically, when children are started on medications at an early age they will remain on medications for most of their adolescence and some continue throughout adulthood. Medical professionals are medicating children with psychotropic medications at alarmingly high rates and with more than one psychotropic frequently. The psychotropic medications have often not been tested thoroughly on children or approved by the FDA for children’s use. Some of the medications that have obtained FDA approval have questionable reliability because their primary funding source for the research was pharmaceutical companies or their affiliates. Because of these and many other reasons, there is a social dilemma in our society over whether or not to medicate children for their problem behaviors or due to a mental health diagnosis. Using the Six-Step Policy Anaylsis Framework (Jansson, 2008), this paper will explore the available research on the effects of medications on children. The research and other available resources will be examined to see how current research findings and practice, and future research topics may be used to develop new policy on prescribing psychotropic medications to children. History of Medicating Children The 1930s through 1950s The first formal introduction to using medication to alter behavior in children suffering from mental disorders occurred in 1937 when Bradley and his colleagues reported using benzedrine to treat a group of hospitalized children with a wide range of mental conditions (Bradley, 1937; Bradley & Bowen, 1940; Molitch & Eccles, 1937). Stimulant medications such as benzedrine have remained the most researched and the most used of the psychotropic agents, at least in the United States.

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