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  • Antipsychotic drugs in childhood could lead to depression

    Author: AAP

A study on mice has found the early use of antipsychotic drugs during childhood is possibly altering the brain and could lead to depression later in life.

The use of antipsychotic drugs in childhood and teen years could lead to depression and anxiety later in life, particularly in males, a new study has found.

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However, the study on mice is unlikely to change the prescribing practices of psychiatrists, who say parents should always conduct a comprehensive assessment before medicating their kids to treat behavioural problems.

Research conducted on the brain tissue of mice by neuroscientists at the University of Wollongong and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), found long-term alterations to a number of adult behaviours, including changes to activity levels as well as changes in depressive-like behaviours and anxiety levels.

Early use of these antipsychotics is possibly altering critical neurotransmitters in the brain, the researchers concluded.


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The antipsychotic drugs tested in the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, were aripiprazole, olanzapine and risperidone.

These drugs are generally used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

They are also often prescribed to children with autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, and are used to control some of the symptoms of ADHD.

Professor Chao Deng, head of the antipsychotic research laboratory at IHMRI, hopes the finding will help paediatricians and psychiatrists to better weigh up the risks versus the benefits of prescribing these drugs during such a "critical" time period.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Nick Kowalenko says the research should make everyone a fraction more cautious but it doesn't at this stage give any direct information that will help clinicians.
What the research does do, says Dr Kowalenko, is support a call for more funding into investigating the impacts of early use of these drugs.

"We haven't had the history of strategic funding for research in the area and so it's certainly helpful to us as clinicians to have better long-term data into the use of these sort of medications."

These particular medications should be considered after parents have had the opportunity to discuss a comprehensive assessment and comprehensive treatment plan with their clinician, says Dr Kowalenko.
He also advises parents not to be fearful of trialling medication.

"A trial of medication is sometimes not a bad thing as long as it has the appropriate limits around it."


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