Psychotropics and Youth, Part 2 – The Solutions

“Prescribed psychotropic medications are now high on the research agenda,” assert Lakhan and Hagger-Johnson. Their study advocates new approaches to research to address the rising concern over dramatic increases in psychotropic prescriptions for both children and young.

Our first post delineated the five erroneous myths often adhered to when prescribing youth’s psychotropic medication. Here are the three areas of recommended research to address this “alarming” problem.

1) Clarify child/adult differences for psychotropics. The future promises to see questionnaires and interviews tailored specifically to children and adolescents. Prominent will be the initiation of normative data for youth mental disorders. Studies will need to focus on specific age groups, disorders and treatments.

2) Attend to the growth of “cosmetic” use of psychotropics in children and adolescents. Researchers’ alarm over the marked increase in psychotropic prescriptions for youth has spilled over into the public arena. Recent media attention, in conjunction with changes in clinical practice standards and drug product labeling, has juggernauted psychotropic investigation to the forefront of the research agenda.

3) Address concerns about the diagnostic validity of mental illness in the current DSM classification system. Due to lack of psychotropic research on youth, the current DSM system is flawed, Lakhan and Hagger-Johnson noted. Ethical challenges such as reluctance to enroll children in psychotropic clinical trials and the lack of “well-designed”, placebo-controlled trials have traditionally been barriers to effective research. Increasingly, the idea of hands-on research with children is more palatable.

Lakhan and Haggar-Johnson remind us that “for the first time, we can begin to record and measure, rather than assume, the impact of prescribed psychotropics on children and adolescents.” The final verdict — children and adolescents need accurate, age-appropriate data that does not exist today.


Lakhan, S., & Hagger-Johnson, G. (2007). The impact of prescribed psychotropics on youth Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 3 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1745-0179-3-21

Courtney Sherman, BA

Courtney Sherman, BA, is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles (History). She is a writer living in Los Angeles.
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