Toddler Depression, Now With Prozac

Andrew Dalton

After last week's tale of toddler depression brought images of 2-year-olds in trench coats composing poems in black crayon, The New York Times returns with another story of sadness in the sandbox that's just as heartbreaking and a lot less amusing.

Seems some doctors are prescribing plain old grown-up blues killers like Prozac to small children whose parents feel they have no other hope, and they're often combining it with crazy cocktails of other stuff. 

Here's one regimen doctors prescribed -- for a 3-year-old:

"The anti-psychotic Risperdal, the antidepressant Prozac, two sleeping medicines, and one for attention-deficit disorder." 

Damn. I feel like I got a contact high just typing that.

The story says that same toddler has grown up to be a well-adjusted 6-year-old who takes just one drug for ADD (I guess we've all gotta be on something).

Unlike the depressed tots in last week's story, who came from well-off families who saw elite psychiatrists, the drugged kids here come largely from poorer families with fewer choices getting help from physicians.

Of course these battles have been fought for decades over Ritalin and other "kid-friendly" drugs. And as a dad who got the gift of a remarkably easy kid through no doing of my own, I hate to judge parents and health care pros trying to deal with extremely tough kids. There's just something extra scary about the prospect of the same drugs from mom or dad's medicine cabinet showing up next to the bubble gum-flavored Tylenol. (Oh wait ... that's been recalled.)

One additional note: As Helaine Olen points out in Slate, it turns out the psychiatrist who was the star of last week's story on toddler depression has taken a lot of money from big pharmaceutical companies seeking to study the potential for anti-psychotics in extra young children. 

This doesn't mean her work is illegitimate. If it weren't for drug money, there would be very little health research done at all. But it does mean we should crank up our skepticism an extra notch.

What do you think of toddlers taking Prozac and other drugs for depression?


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