U.S. children are about three times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications such as antidepressants than children in Europe, researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, said the differences may be due to regulatory practices and cultural beliefs about medications and emotional and behavioral problems.
Study leader Julie Zito of the University of Maryland led U.S., German and Dutch researchers who investigated prescription levels in three countries.
“Antidepressant and stimulant prevalence were three or more times greater in the United States than in the Netherlands and Germany, while antipsychotic prevalence was 1.5 to 2.2 times greater,” Zito said in a statement.
The researchers said the differences may be partly due to different diagnostic classification systems.
“The U.S. trend of increasing bipolar diagnosis in children and adolescents does not reflect European practice,” the study authors said in a statement. “Government cost restrictions in Europe, the larger number of child psychiatrists per capita in the United States and the use of two or more different psychotropic drugs in a single year in U.S. children” are possible explanations.
Direct-to-consumer drug advertising, common in the United States, is also likely to account for some of the differences, Zito said.