A newly published report in the Journal of Pediatrics found that foster children are receiving power mixtures of antipsychotics normally used to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia just as frequently as most mentally disabled children.

The study analyzed 637,924 Medicaid records from 2003 of minors from an unidentified state who were either in foster care, getting disability benefits for a diagnosis such as severe autism or bipolar disorder, or were enrolled in a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). As The New York Times reports, the study found that anti-psychotics such as Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa and others were being prescribed most to the children in foster care. Of the 16,969 children who had received at least one prescription for an antipsychotic drug, 9.2 percent of foster children received more than one such prescription at the same time, compared with 6.8 percent of the children on disability and only 2.5 percent for those enlisted in TANF.

Despite these drugs being approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the study found that at least 2 percent of the foster children took at least one of the drugs.

“The kids in foster care may come from bad homes, but they do not have the sort of complex medical issues that those in the disabled population do,” said lead author Susan dosReis.“We simply don’t have evidence to support this kind of use, especially in young children.”

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Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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