Is it safe to prescribe psychotropic drugs to preschoolers?

By on April 1, 2011

“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 : “ADHD and Stimulant Drugs

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.



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: smoking cessation psychotherapy/counselling circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099