4000 kids under 10 on mood drugs

UNPUBLISHED figures show that nearly 4000 children under the age of 10 were prescribed anti-depressants last financial year, including 553 children under five and 48 babies.

The commonwealth Department of Health statistics give an alarming, although most likely conservative, age-by-age breakdown of the national use of anti-depressants.

Leading pediatricians and psychiatrists can offer no reason why infants would be given the drugs.

Depression expert Gordon Parker said the numbers were “beyond comprehension” and urged the federal Government to ask doctors responsible for supplying scripts for young children to justify their actions.

Professor Parker, the executive director of the Black Dog Institute, said: “At first pass it is beyond comprehension that more than 500 Australian children – aged one to five years – have received an anti-depressant drug.

“When the particular drugs are considered, the risk of significant side effects – let alone their efficacy – is of key concern. It strikes me that there would be wisdom in having the doctors justify such prescriptions to determine whether there are any justifiable reasons for such surprising data.”

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