A new study has revealed that socially disadvantaged children are more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic drugs compared to any other children.
Australian researchers found that the majority of the children taking the drugs were boys from financially unstable families and were living with a single parent.
Antipsychotic drugs are a range of medications that are used for some types of mental disorder, primarily, manic depression and schizophrenia.
They can also be used to treat anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
The Adelaide Study
The study conducted by the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide in Australia was based on data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
Amy Kaim, a social policy researcher from the university, analyzed the data and cross-matched it with information from the Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Kaim said the findings show that children and teenagers from poorer families are more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic drugs compared to other children in the same age group. Notably, 81 percent of these children, who were prescribed in their first year, were male. The children were known to have had poorer health and education outcomes as opposed to other kids.
"A larger proportion of children and teens taking the medication were boys, in lower-income families, with an unemployed primary caregiver, who were living in single-parent households," said Kaim.
"Their parents were more likely to report that their child had behavioural difficulties and they were more likely to have repeated a grade in school and to have lower school achievement." Kaim continued.
According to Kaim, the findings of the study did not come as a surprise because a number of previous research came to similar conclusions. However, she said they hope the study would highlight the need to look into the social factors that affect the child's mental health, instead of resorting to antipsychotics for the treatment of behavior problems.
The study is expected to be presented to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Annual Congress sometime this week.
Misuse Of Antipsychotic Drugs In The US
According to a recent report from the Human Rights Watch, nursing homes in the United States still administer antipsychotic drugs to thousands of elderly patients, even though these patients never consented to receive the drugs and were never diagnosed for conditions that the drugs were designed for.
The report said that the nursing homes use the drugs because they make it easier to manage patients with Alzheimer's disease and other mental illnesses.