A survey of l00 GPs from the current Wessex Family Health Services Authority and all 28 of the consultant child psychiatrists in the area found that in a three month period, 6l prescriptions for hypnotics (sedative antihistamines) and 28 prescription
The authors themselves were surprised to report that in this period 73 per cent of GPs and 68 per cent of consultant child psychiatrists prescribed a psychotropic drug to a child of l7 or under.
“There should also be some concern that several prescriptions of antidepressants for depression were made by general practitioners on their own initiative without the recommendation of a consultant,” wrote the authors.
In an editorial in the same issue of the British Medical Journal, Dora Black, consultant psychiatrist with the Royal Free Hospital in London, pointed out that psychopharmacology in children is in its infancy and should only be the final port of call. The most worrying aspect of the study was that most prescriptions were being written for problems not shown to benefit from a drug. Antidepressants like imipramine have only been shown to have short term benefit in controlling bedwetting, unlike an alarm, and sedative antihistamines like trimeprazine tartrate are far less effective than behavioural methods in reestablishing normal sleep patterns for infants and toddlers.