Education Reporter: American Children Take the Most Drugs By Far

A study in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health compared how doctors in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands tend to prescribe psychotropic drugs to children. This was one of the first studies to rigorously compare prescription rates in different nations. Germany and the Netherlands both have socialized medicine, which often means that prescription rates for both necessary and unnecessary drugs will be lower. But the differences were too extreme to be attributed solely to socialized health care. Between 1999 and 2000, 6.7% of Americans under the age of 20 took at least one psychotropic drug, while just 2.9% of Germans and 2% of Dutch in that age group took one of the drugs. Over 8% of American children ages five to nine took at least one psychotropic drug — more than four times the percentage in either Germany or the Netherlands. Prescriptions of antidepressants and stimulants to American children were especially out of proportion when compared to prescription rates in Europe. Prescription rates in other industrialized nations appear to resemble those of Germany and the Netherlands, and not those of the United States. France, for example, banned the practice of prescribing stimulant drugs to children while the study was underway. (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, Sept. 2008)