April 20, 2024

Rising Trend of Children and Teens Taking Multiple Psychiatric Medications Revealed in Maryland Study

A recent study conducted on mental health care in Maryland has uncovered a concerning trend where an increasing number of children and teenagers covered by Medicaid are being prescribed multiple psychiatric medications. This pattern, known as psychotropic polypharmacy, seems to be on the rise not only in Maryland but potentially across the country, according to previous research.

The study, led by graduate student Yueh-Yi Chiang from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, analyzed prescription data of nearly 127,000 Medicaid enrollees under the age of 18 between 2015 and 2020. The findings revealed that the percentage of individuals receiving multiple psychiatric drugs increased from 4.2% in 2015 to 4.6% in 2020. Specifically, children and teens in Maryland aged 17 or younger experienced a 4% annual increase in the odds of psychotropic polypharmacy during the study period.

Interestingly, the study highlighted that individuals with disabilities or those in foster care were significantly more likely to be prescribed three or more overlapping psychotropic classes for 90 days or longer compared to those with low income. The percentage of children in foster care receiving polypharmacy rose from 10.8% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2020, indicating a concerning trend among this vulnerable population.

Although the reasons for the rising prevalence of polypharmacy are not fully understood, the research team hypothesized that factors such as complex medical conditions, early-life trauma, and fragmented care could be contributing to this phenomenon. The team emphasized the importance of closely monitoring the use of psychotropic combinations, particularly among at-risk populations like youths enrolled in Medicaid who have disabilities or are in foster care.

The study, published on February 16 in JAMA Network Open, sheds light on the need for further investigation and intervention to address the growing issue of psychotropic polypharmacy among children and teens. The findings underscore the significance of ensuring appropriate prescribing practices and optimizing mental health care for vulnerable youth populations.

In alignment with prior research nationwide, these results signify a concerning trend that warrants attention and action to safeguard the well-being of children and teenagers receiving psychiatric treatments. Previous studies have indicated similar trends, such as a high percentage of young individuals in the United States taking multiple psychiatric medications simultaneously, depicting a broader issue that requires systemic responses and support mechanisms.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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