A recent federal study finds that foster kids are being overtreated with psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants like Paxil. It turns out that foster children who are on Medicaid are being treated with prescription medications more antipsychotics and antidepressants more than other kids who are covered by Medicaid.
This new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study has various healthcare professionals and lawmakers concerned that physicians are overprescribing powerful antidepressants like Paxil to foster children. Since the kids are state wards, many of them are coping with various emotional difficulties after living such difficult lives at home, and because of that they are being given rather high doses of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs as a means of coping.
In addition, it is not uncommon for children involved with Medicaid to be sent to general practitioners instead of counselors for treatment.
Child psychiatrist Jon McClellan, University of Washington, stated that, “The high-risk practices identified by the GAO study raise significant concerns regarding the treatment of severely mentally ill and vulnerable youth.”
The study also pointed found that foster children were also many times more likely to be taking more than five different psychotropic drugs at a time compared to other children on Medicaid. Paxil was only one of the antidepressants used in the study; Abilify, Risperdal and Cymbalta were also mentioned in the study, as well as Ritalin and Stratter, which are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
This news is likely to be very alarming to doctors, many of whom feel that these drugs carry too many adverse side effects to be given to children at all. Paxil, for example, has been proven to cause patients to suffer from homicidal and suicidal behaviour, and should not be prescribed to vulnerable children; especially those in foster care who are more vulnerable than most. And it is especially risky to prescribe antidepressants like Paxil when research has also shown that the drug may not be any better at treating depression and anxiety any better than a change of lifestyle, placebos and talk therapy.