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Telegraph, 23/7/07

The use of antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs among schoolchildren has more than quadrupled in the last decade, it is revealed today.

Martes 24 de julio de 2007 · 1391 lecturas

Telegraph, 23/7/07

Child use of antidepressants up four-fold
By Graeme Paton, Education Correspondent

The use of antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs among schoolchildren has more than quadrupled in the last decade, it is revealed today.

Prescription of behaviour-altering drugs to under-16s has soared ten-fold in the last decade

New figures show that GPs are prescribing pills in record numbers to combat stress, violent behaviour and even tiredness.

Under-16s were given drugs for mental health problems more than 631,000 times last year, compared to just 146,000 in the mid-Nineties.

The huge increase has been blamed on a rise in childhood mental illness sparked by family breakdown and high-stakes school exams.

But there are fears that family doctors are coming under pressure to prescribe drugs such as Prozac as a "quick fix" solution, when counselling would be better.

Politicians and children’s charities last night branded the rise "very dangerous" and said a generation of young people risked becoming hooked on prescription drugs.

The findings come despite the publication of research showing that children given antidepressants run a higher risk of self-harm and are more likely to attempt suicide.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat shadow children’s secretary, who obtained the figures in a Parliamentary Question, said: "We’ve gone from a period when it was almost unthinkable to prescribe drugs to a child to amend their behaviour to a time when it is quite the norm.

"In a sense, it shows some of the pressure many youngsters are under - their lives are chaotic and there isn’t as much stability at home. But instead of trying to treat the causes and create a more stable and supportive environment for young people, we think we can solve these problems by prescribing a pill."

New figures, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, show a huge year-on-year increase in medication prescribed for depression, behaviour control and severe mental disorders.

Behaviour-altering drugs soared ten-fold in a decade. These include Ritalin, for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Modafinil, for daytime sleepiness. Academics say Modafinil is increasingly used by students to stay awake and boost short-term memory.

Prescriptions in this drug group for under-16s rose from 48,264 in 1996/97 to 454,797 in 2006/07. Among 16- to 18-year-olds in full-time education there was a rise from 2,058 to 40,339.

According to figures on anti-depressants, 109,535 prescriptions were made for under-16s in 2006/07, compared to 78,353 a decade ago.

Four years ago, guidance was published saying most antidepressants - including Seroxat - should not be prescribed to under-18s. This did not cover Prozac, which is still freely prescribed to children.

NCH, the children’s charity, claims that one child in 10 suffers a significant mental health problem and that rates have doubled since the 1990s.

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