Prescription Antipsychotic Medications

Factoid Answer

Compared with children in Italy, children in the United States are about how likely to be on prescription antipsychotic medications such as Risperdal and Seroquel?

  • About 90 times as likely

To be precise, about 93 times as likely.

The most popular medications now used to control temper tantrums and other acting-out misbehaviors in American kids are the atypical antipsychotics, especially Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa. These are the same medications which psychiatrists use to treat schizophrenia. (They are called “atypical” antipsychotics to distinguish them from the older, “typical” antipsychotics such as Thorazine and Mellaril.) American kids are about 8.7 times more likely to be on these antipsychotic medications compared with kids in Germany, 56 times more likely compared with kids in Norway, and about 93 times more likely to be on these medications compared with kids in Italy.  These figures are derived from Table 4 in the paper by Christian Bachmann and colleagues, “Antipsychotic prescription in children and adolescents,” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, volume 111, pp. 25 -34, 2014. The German data come from Bachmann and colleagues, which showed a prevalence of 3.2 children per 1,000 per year, mostly adolescents. In addition, I refer to three other studies cited by Bachmann and colleagues in table 4:

  • United States: In their 2012 paper, Mark Olfson and colleagues (see note 60) reported a prevalence of 37.6 adolescents per 1,000 taking atypical antipsychotics and 18.3 children per 1,000 taking atypical antipsychotics, averaging to 27.9 individuals 0 – 19 years of age per 1,000 [(37.6 + 18.3)/2 = 27.9], as of 2009. The American figure of 27.9 divided by the German figure of 3.2 yields 8.7. In Norway (see below) the figure is 0.5 per 1,000, so the American figure is 56 times higher (27.9 divided by 0.5); in Italy (see below) the latest figure was 0.30, so the American figure is 93 times higher (27.9 divided by 0.3).
  • Norway: Svein Kjosavik, Sabine Ruths, and Steinar Hunskaar, “Psychotropic drug use in the Norwegian general population in 2005: data from the Norwegian Prescription Database”, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, volume 18, pp. 572 – 578, 2009.
  • Italy: Antonio Clavenna and colleagues, “Antidepressant and antipsychotic use in an Italian pediatric population,” BMC Pediatrics, volume 11, #40, 2011.

In the United States, medication is often the first resort when dealing with a challenging child. That’s not true elsewhere. For more about why this is so, and what parents in North America need to know, please see chapter 3 of my book The Collapse of Parenting: Why most kids today would be better off raised outside the United States // What you need to know, and the three things you must do, if you’re staying here (Basic Books, 2015). Or you could attend my presentation titled “The Medicalization of Misbehavior


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