New Medicaid data shows that antipsychotic use may dramatically increase the risk for diabetes in some children.
The largest study of its kind, conducted by researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) PolicyLab, documents the significant risks to children who take prescription antipsychotic drugs. These medications belong to a powerful class of drugs designed to treat severe mental and behavioral health disorders. Examples of the second-generation (newer) antipsychotic drugs referenced in this study include Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify, Geodon, and Latuda. Results show that prescribing these antipsychotic drugs to children can significantly increase the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes by almost 50 percent. Children taking antidepressant medications in addition to antipsychotic drugs may have double the risk. Previous research has shown that one in three children taking antidepressants in the Medicaid program is also taking an antipsychotic drug at the same time.
Antipsychotic drugs traditionally were prescribed only to children diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or to developmentally delayed children with severe aggressive behaviors. However, these medications are being increasingly prescribed to children with a wider range of symptoms without strong research demonstrating safety and efficacy for these issues. As a result, children with symptoms such as those seen in ADHD or disruptive behavior disorders are being medicated with these powerful medications, with little regard given to the potential short and long-term side effects.
The study, which used national Medicaid data on over 1.3 million children ages 10-18 with a mental health diagnosis, demonstrates that Medicaid-enrolled children are much more likely than privately insured children to receive prescriptions for these antipsychotic drugs. In fact, over 25% of all the children in the Medicaid system receiving prescription drugs for behavior problems them were prescribed antipsychotics. Most of these prescriptions were prescribed for less severe disorders than what they were originally designed to treat.
David Rubin, MD, MSCE, the study’s lead author and co-director of PolicyLab at CHOP states: “With such vast numbers of children being exposed to these medications, the implications for potential long-lasting harm can be jarring”. The research team recommends that families who are making medication and treatment decisions review overall treatment strategies and approaches before allowing children to take powerful antipsychotic medications. Children in immediate crisis, who may benefit from these medications over the short-term, should be placed on the lowest possible doses and closely monitored. They should be transitioned off these medications as soon as possible, once the behaviors have been addressed properly with other strategies. Numerous effective treatment approaches exist to support and reduce even the most challenging behaviors, and these avenues should be implemented in addition to medications.
Dr. Rubin goes on to say that, “At the end of the day, the approach to the individual child who is in crisis is still a case-by-case decision between a family and the treating provider. We can only hope that those decisions are made in full recognition of our findings, and that for some children, alternatives to these powerful medications—such as counseling or other supportive services, will be considered first.”
Rubin, D.M., Kreider, A.R., Matone, M., Huang, Y.S., Feudtner, C., Ross, M.E., & Localio, R. (2015). Risk for incident diabetes mellitus following initiation of second-generation antipsychotics among Medicaid-enrolled youths. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(4). doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0285
What You Should Do Next:
- Sign up for my Better Behavior Naturally community newsletter
Sign up for my newsletter to get tips, resources, and supports to improve your child’s attention, anxiety, mood, and behavior…while making your job as a parent easier. Plus, when you subscribe I’ll also send you a copy of my strategy-packed guide 5 Keys to Better Behavior Naturally!
- Sign-up for my FREE Do Something Daily Better Behavior Challenge
Register for my 7-day challenge to get 7 days of quick, simple steps that improve behavior naturally…in just minutes a day. Tackle one tiny task each day to support your child, and join the thousands of parents who have watched their child and family change for the better.
- Enroll in my Better Behavior Naturally Parent Membership
Become a member of the Better Behavior Naturally Parent Membership where you’ll join my exclusive community of parents in a one-of-a-kind virtual resource accessible 24/7. Whether you’ve got a child with a diagnosis like autism or ADHD, or are becoming more and more frustrated with a child who struggles to listen and cope, this membership is designed to give you the information, tools, and support you need…whenever you need it.