More kids in Germany are getting prescriptions for psychotropic drugs than ever before, according to the results of a new study.

On the basis of nationwide statutory health insurance data, the authors analyzed prescribing rates and rates of new prescriptions, as well as the groups of doctors who issued the initial prescriptions for psychotropic drugs in 5 million children and adolescents. Herbal or homeopathic medicines were not included.

The prevalence of psychotropic drug use rose from 19.6 per 1000 children and adolescents in 2004 to 27.1/1000 in 2012. Notable increases were seen for stimulants (10.5/1000 to 19.1/1000) and antipsychotic drugs (2.3/1000 to 3.1/1000), whereas prescribing rates for antidepressants remained stable. The number of patients who were prescribed such medications for the first time was mostly constant, or even fell, in 2006–2012.

The analysis of the data showed that the increase in prescriptions of psychotropic drugs is not based on an increase in the numbers of children and adolescents entering therapy for the first time, but on the fact that more patients who had already undergone therapy previously were prescribed medication treatment again in subsequent years.

Citation: Abbas S, Ihle P, Adler JB, Engel S, Günster C, Linder R, Lehmkuhl G, Schubert I: Psychopharmacological prescriptions in children and adolescents in Germany—a nationwide analysis of over 4 million statutorily insured individuals from 2004 to 2012. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113: 396−403

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