US Children Take More Drugs Than Europeans

Armen Hareyan's picture

A first of its kind study compared US and European (children in Germany and Netherlands) children and found that US children take much more drugs than their European peers do.

A team of researchers from University of Maryland examined data gathered in 2000 covering 600000 insured children aged 19 and younger and looked at antidepressant, stimulant and antipsychotic drug use.

There were 6.7% of US children taking psychotropic drugs, compared with 2.9% of children in Netherlands and 2% of children in Germany. This means that US children take three times more drugs than European children. The use of antipsychotic was from 1.5 to 2.2 times greater in US children compared to European peers.


Researchers suggest that increased antidepressant and stimulant used is because US has a better system of diagnosing mental health problems than it used to have years ago and than the other countries have. Mental diseases like hyperactivity, attention deficit and bipolar disorders are now more closely examined and currently all kids are equally checked for such disorders not to live anyone behind. However, there are health professionals arguing this point of view saying that there are better treatments designed especially for children, which do not include such strong drugs.

Also, the system of diagnosing such diseases in children is quite different in US and European countries. US is more attentive to behavioral disorders than Europe is.

One more factor is drug financing differences. This becomes especially clear when taking into account that Europe has recently cut the health plans for using expensive drugs, particularly antipsychotics and antidepressants.

Another reason leading to drug use differences may be direct-to-consumer drug advertising, which is currently allowed in US and New Zealand and is banned in European countries, because the ads are found to give no enough information on drugs side effects, correct usage, benefits and risks. These ads motivate patients to ask doctors to prescribe such drugs despite of the fact whether they need the drug or no.

Despite of all logical explanations on drug prescription and taking differences in US and European children, it is still annoying that children of young ages are taking so much drugs, especially antidepressant, stimulant and antipsychotic drug, which are strong enough to affect child's development forever. And what is interesting in this study is that no one is surprised about the results, it turns out that everyone was aware that US kids are taking too many drugs.


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