LA County Using Psychotropic Drugs on More Kids than Previously Reported

Kids in the foster care and delinquency systems in Los Angeles County are being drugged with psychotropic medication at a much higher rate than the county previously reported, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2013, the county failed to report that one out of every three children in the two systems were on psychiatric medications.

Hidden Cases

Originally, LA County reported that 2,300 children in those two systems were being drugged, but over 1,000 additional cases were not acknowledged until the Times uncovered the information through open records requests. That means that about almost 3,400 of the youngsters in both systems are on psychiatric medication.

While medicating children is appropriate for certain conditions, the Times points out that state lawmakers and children's advocates often raise concerns about drugs being used to control kids or make them more docile and manageable, even when there's no true medical reason. The problem is widespread around the country as the Wall Street Journal reported in a 2014 article.

California state law requires a judge's approval before giving medication to kids who are under court custody.

A Serious Decision

The decision on whether or not to medicate a child for a mental disorder is a serious choice that you should make with the help of a medical professional. Psychotropic medications can affect children differently from adults. For example, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class of antidepressants caused an increased suicide risk in children and adolescents that led to a special warning label.

While drugs are helpful for many conditions, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry warns that they should only be used after a proper diagnosis and as part of an overall treatment plan.