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Fears Antipsychotic Drugs Are Overprescribed To Kids

'There are other approaches'

Fears Antipsychotic Drugs Are Overprescribed To Kids

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A child psychiatry expert fears an over-prescription of antipsychotic drugs to kids under six is becoming the norm, calling for a nation-wide review.

Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry David Coghill, an honorary fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute MCRI and academic at the University of Melbourne says current figures could suggest the inappropriate prescription and use of certain medications, AAP reports.

"These drugs were designed for treating psychosis not for treating behavioural problems and aggressive behaviours," Prof Coghill said.

"Increasingly what we are seeing is that children and young people without ADHD, without autism and without intellectual disability but who are impulsive and aggressive are being prescribed these really very strong medications to help manage those behaviours."

Referencing the treatment of ADHD, Prof Coghill says the condition would normally call for much "safer" medication.

His comments follow a 2015 Fairfax report which found more than 16,500 people under age 17 were prescribed anti-psychotics on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Figures cited by the Citizens Committee on Human Rights suggest more than 1,300 children aged two to six were being prescribed antipsychotics.

"There are other approaches and medications that would certainly be used before you would go for an antipsychotic," Prof Coghill continued.

"I would like us to really review the use of these medications."

Prof Coghill added any medication should be a "last resort" for treating aggressive behaviour.

"It's much more effective to use non-pharmacological treatments that look at helping a young person manage their symptoms, or for adults to manage a young person in such a way that help them to reduce those aggressive behaviours," he said.

"We don't have enough clinical psychologists and other professionals trained in the non-pharmacological approaches.

"And also because in Australia, particularly the private system, the pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists work independent of each other and not always within multi-disciplinary teams."