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1 in 13 children taking psychiatric medication in US

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A new government survey has found that approximately 1 out of every 13 children is taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral problems, HealthDay News reported.

Overall, many parents believe the drugs are working, with 55 percent of parents reporting that these psychiatric medications are helping their children. Only 26 percent of parents said the drugs helped “some,” while 19 percent of parents said the drugs didn’t help at all.

"We can't advise parents on what they should do, but I think it's positive that over half of parents reported that medications helped 'a lot,' " said report author LaJeana Howie, a statistical research scientist at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

The researchers utilized  data from the National Health Interview Survey, which has monitored the health of the population since 1957.  All of the data gathered came from parental or guardian responses to questionnaires; no medical records were used for the study.

They found that 7.5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 were taking psychiatric medication in the United States.  Additionally, many more boys than girls were found to be on these types of drugs: 9.7 percent of boys compared to 5.2 percent of girls.

The study authors did not include information on the specific medications being used nor the exact disorders for which the children were being treated.  However, they noted that 81 percent of the children on medication had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point.   

Furthermore, significantly more children on Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program – 9.9 percent – were taking drugs for behavioral problems, as opposed to 6.7 percent of children with private insurance. Only 2.7 percent of children without insurance were taking these types of drugs.

"Over the past two decades, the use of medication to treat mental health problems has increased substantially among all school-aged children and in most subgroups of children," the researchers wrote in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. "Data collected by national health surveys play a key role in monitoring and understanding the factors associated with the expanded use of medication for the emotional and behavioral problems of children."

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