Archives for Statistics

Atypical Antipsychotics

Too Early To Link Sandy Hook Shooting With Psych Meds

Tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary aren't just agonizing and heart-wrenching for millions of people - they're frustrating.

We keep asking ourselves "how?" and "why?" And, with authorities still trying to piece together evidence, the public has to make do with limited - and often incorrect - information.

First came reports that the shooter, Adam Lanza, might have Asperger's. To my knowledge, no authoritative source has yet confirmed Lanza had a formal diagnosis of that or any other emotional, behavioral or developmental condition.

But that lack of evidence - as well as expert consensus that Asperger's was extremely unlike to have triggered a shooting rampage - didn't stop an army of commentators from weighing in.

Now, comes the speculation about whether Lanza might have a history of taking mood or behavior-altering medication.

Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not blaming journalists, bloggers, pundits, Twitter users, and the general public from wondering if Lanza might be taking psychiatric meds.

In fact, it's one of the first questions that came to my mind - even before I heard the reports of his possible Asperger's.

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ADHD drugs

Think Kids Are “Overmedicated”? First Consider This.

I've argued before that declaring American kids and teens to be "overmedicated" is something of a cop-out.

How can people say what constitutes overmedication when they can't - or won't - specify what would constitute an acceptable number or percentage of kids taking psychiatric meds?

Still, I do care about the numbers, because they can give us clues as to which kids and how many are getting appropriate treatment for emotional and behavioral problems.

A recent and widely publicized study by researchers from The National Institute of Mental Health provides data on some -but not all - key measurements of youth medication use.

Its main finding: Just one in seven teens with a diagnosable psychiatric conditions have recently taken medications to treat it.

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ADHD drugs

Study Finds Autistic Kids With Psychiatric Disorders More Likely To Be Medicated

Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) take psychotropic medications to treat associated symptoms of their conditions, such as irritability and anxiety. Usage has increased in recent years, and some recent studies have questioned the evidence base supporting the drugs' effectiveness in young people with ASD.

A new study, published in a supplement to the November issue of Pediatrics, suggests that coexisting psychiatric conditions and problem behaviors might...
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Abuse and diversion

Mixing Meds and Alcohol: Just How Dangerous Is It?

Most psychiatric drugs bear some version of the warning: "Do not drink alcoholic beverages when taking this medication."

In reality, though, many people taking psych meds drink anyway. They have various reasons: not wanting to curtail their fun, not putting much stock in the warnings, or simply thinking it's easier to take a proffered drink than explain why they're turning it down.

Doctors oftentimes don't bother to talk to patients about potential dangers. Or they tell patients not to drink, but don't explain why. To make matters worse, because of a lack of studies on the subject, patients inclined to do their own research will have a hard time just how risky it is to drink while taking various kinds of psychiatric medications (I've written elsewhere about this troubling lack of evidence).

A widely publicized study that came out last month in the journal Neurology underscores the problem. The findings, which pooled data from 16 studies, showed that people taking SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft or Celexa were 40 percent more likely to suffer a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain and 50 percent more likely to suffer any bleeding in the skull.

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Antidepressants

How Psych Drug Studies Shortchange Kids

For years, researchers and health policy experts have been charging that psychiatric medications aren't adequately tested in children - and a new study gives some powerful ammunition to that critique.

The study, from Pediatrics, looked at clinical drug trials between 2006 and 2011, involving five conditions that cause the greatest "disease burden" for children, as measured by a rating that counts the total years of healthy life lost to disability.

In high-income countries like the United States, three of the five conditions with the highest disease burden among kids were psychiatric disorders: depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

But of the drug studies to treat those conditions, disproportionately few involved children.

The lack of trials is troubling because children and adults don't necessarily respond to medication in the same way. With psychiatric drugs, that's a potential problem both for physical reasons - and for psychological and developmental ones.
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ADHD drugs

How Many ‘Medicated Kids’ Are There?

How many kids take medications for mental health problems in the U.S. these days?

It’s a simple question, and one I’ve been getting asked a lot lately as I’ve been interviewed about my new book, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up, about coming of age on psychiatric drugs.

And I’ve been embarrassed to hem and haw and not to have a single, easy answer.

Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of piecemeal stats from a lot of different sources, but they vary wildly, and there’s no single, unassailable source.
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Antidepressants

Kids, Antidepressants & Suicide: Could The Stats Cancel Each Other Out?

A new, important study published in the prestigious Archives of General Psychiatry found that antidepressants decrease the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in adults and have no effect on the risk in children.
This is big news, since in 2004 the FDA slapped a black box warning on antidepressants, cautioning that they could cause suicidal tendencies in people under 18. In 2007, the agency extended that warning to young adults under age 25.

I've read the study and news accounts about it, including PsychCentral's, but I'm still left with a lingering question. Perhaps some astute readers who know more about statistics than I can weigh in.

Based on the studies findings, can we conclude that there is really no association between antidepressant use and the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in kids? Or did the kids who grew more suicidal while taking antidepressants and the kids who got less suicidal taking the medications just cancel each other out?

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Diagnoses

With Mental Illness, ‘Serious’ Is A Slippery Term


When the federal government released an important compendium of mental health data this week, the headlines proclaimed that 1 in 5 Americans over 18 had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year, and 1 in 20 had a "serious mental illness."

But what does "serious mental illness" mean, anyway, and what are its connotations and implications when it comes to treatment? It's a question worth asking, because it's used differently in different contexts.

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