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title pic Too Many Drugs for Foster Kids

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on December 22, 2011

Too Many Drugs for Foster Kids

If you know any children who are in foster care, you may want to heed (and pass along) the information in this new study that is suggesting that foster children are given more potentially dangerous drugs than other children.

According to the study, foster children who are on Medicaid are being given psychotropic medications, including antidepressants, and antipsychotics far more than the other kids that are covered by Medicaid. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) study is scaring lawmakers and medical experts alike, who are all concerned about how doctors may be over-prescribing these potentially lethal drugs to kids in the foster care system. The big concern is that many of these kids come into the foster care system with various degrees of emotional baggage that cause many doctors to prescribe particularly high doses to some of them as a result of it. These doses have been proven to be fatal for some adults, let alone kids.

What concerns me with this new study is that the drugs may even cause some of the challenges that the foster kids are facing since antidepressants like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft have been proven to cause birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drugs while pregnant. Some of those side effects include PPHN, cleft palate and neural tube defects. However, these drugs can also cause some of the behavioral problems that doctors may be prescribing the drugs to combat.

For example, if a child is born with an undiagnosed, mild case of autism (which studies show these drugs also may cause) and it is deemed as a behavioral problem instead, a doctor might prescribe the child an antidepressant (Paxil, Zoloft) or an antipsychotic (Seroquel) as a means of treating the symptoms. These drugs have been proven to cause some patients to experience aggressive or suicidal behavior as an adverse side effect, and this could be devastating for both the foster family and the biological parents alike. That is not even touching on how damaging the drugs can be on the children’s mind’s and bodies.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “children in the Medicaid system can be overmedicated since they are typically seen by general practitioners, not counselors.”

Child psychiatrist Jon McClellan, University of Washington, said, “The high-risk practices identified by the GAO study raise significant concerns regarding the treatment of severely mentally ill and vulnerable youth.”

This study was conducted with researchers focusing on Medicaid programs in the states of Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. The study showed that in 2008, 1,752 children in the states mentioned above who were on the Medicaid programs were being treated with at least five or more such drugs at the same time.

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