Is it safe to prescribe psychotropic drugs to preschoolers?

By on April 1, 2011

Photo © Elena Derevtsova

“30% of specialists prescribe psychotropic medication to preschoolers” the alarming headline reads (Japan Today, 10 March 2011). What’s your view, Dr. Symonds?

The implication, of course, is that these drugs are over-prescribed.  

The article seems to have touched raw nerve judging by the many lively anonymous responses: a polarized on-line debate with indignant, insulting, accusatory, or justifying opinions on the question of whether it is appropriate to prescribe mind-drugs for children.


Not to put too fine a point on it, mind-drugs are chemicals, made in a factory, which poison the brain – in a more or less selective way.  The “chemical imbalance” theory is just that: a theory.  No one has ever measured brain neurotransmitters in the living human – serotonin, dopamine, etc.  


In the British Medical Journal, 29 May 2010, a headline caught my eye which is relevant to this mater:  “Medicalisation costs $77 billion (sic) a year in US, new study says”.  By medicalisation is meant “the categorising of [normal] events or behaviours as requiring medical treatment.”  The article continues: “In the US, about 7% of all school age children are on medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; in England it is just over 1% and in France just under 1%.  One can ask if we are over-treating or are they under-treating.” 


I wrote about this subject in TF in December 2009: “ADHD and Stimulant Drugs” (The title unfortunately was misprinted as ADHS.)  


My view is that these drugs are, indeed, grossly over-prescribed.  In exceptional cases they may be useful.  However, doctors and patients should not be under any illusions about how they work: it is empirical.  The idea that mind-drugs act in a specific way to correct a chemical imbalance which is thought to be the cause of the disorder is pure speculation.  


Dr Gabriel Symonds runs the Tokyo British Clinic, a general medical practice for the expatriate community. He treats adults and children, including those with behaviour disorders. 

Tel: 03-5458-6099



About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed.
Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters:
He will be available from another address for:
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circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099