Alarming increase in use of psychotropic medications to Australian children and adolescents after COVID

A recent study conducted by Monash University has raised concerns about the increased dispensing of psychotropic medications to Australian children and adolescents. The study found that the use of these drugs among young people has doubled in less than a decade, which is a worrisome trend for parents and caregivers.

Psychotropic drugs, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, psychostimulants, anxiolytics, and sedatives, are commonly prescribed to children and adolescents with mental disorders like schizophrenia, ADHD, autism, depression, and anxiety. While these medications can provide benefits for young individuals struggling with these conditions, their effectiveness and safety in young people remain subjects of debate.

The study revealed that the prevalence of psychotropic drug dispensing in 2021 was twice as high as in 2013, indicating a significant increase in their usage. Particularly concerning is the fact that the dispensing rates for these drugs were highest among adolescent girls aged 13-18. This highlights the need for further investigation into the reasons behind this surge in prescriptions, especially for girls in this age group.

Associate Professor Luke Grzeskowiak, the senior author of the study, emphasised the importance of understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these dispensing rates. The pandemic seems to have played a role in the increased usage of psychotropic medications, further emphasising the potential long-lasting effects on the well-being of young people.

Of particular concern is the rise in psychotropic polypharmacy, where children and adolescents are prescribed two or more psychotropic drugs simultaneously. This raises worries about potential drug interactions and cumulative side effects, underscoring the need for caution and close monitoring by parents and caregivers.

As parents and caregivers, it is essential to be aware of these findings and to engage in open discussions with healthcare professionals regarding the use of psychotropic medications for your child. It is crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks and consider alternative treatment options whenever possible. The study’s findings highlight the importance of ensuring that young people’s well-being and safety are prioritised when it comes to mental health care.

Note that this study was funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, demonstrating their commitment to addressing these concerns and improving the understanding of medicines use and safety in children.

If you have any specific concerns or questions regarding the use of psychotropic medications for your child, it is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide personalised guidance and support.

There are several common psychotropic drugs that Australians might be familiar with. Here are some examples:

Antipsychotics: Aripiprazole (Abilify); Olanzapine (Zyprexa); Risperidone (Risperdal)

Antidepressants: Sertraline (Zoloft); Fluoxetine (Prozac); Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Psychostimulants (used for ADHD): Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta); Dexamphetamine (Dexedrine); Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse);

Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications): Alprazolam (Xanax); Diazepam (Valium); Lorazepam (Ativan)

Sedative agents: Zolpidem (Stilnox, Ambien); Diazepam (Valium); Temazepam (Temaze, Restoril)

These are just a few examples, and there are many other psychotropic medications available on the market. It’s important to note that these medications should only be prescribed and used under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional. They should never be started or discontinued without proper medical advice. If you have any specific concerns or questions about psychotropic medications, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare professionals.