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Bipolar Diagnoses Among Youth Increase Dramatically

Adults and young people are prescribed similar drugs to treat the condition

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The number of young people diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the United States has increased dramatically -- nearly 40-fold -- in recent years, and the medications they receive to treat the disorder are similar to those adults receive, researchers report in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Carmen Moreno, M.D., of the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, and colleagues used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to compare the number of youth (aged 19 years and younger) and adults (20 and older) diagnosed as outpatients with bipolar disorder between 1994-1995 to those diagnosed between 2002-2003.

The number of adults diagnosed nearly doubled over the course of the study while the number of youth diagnosed increased approximately 40-fold. A subsample of visits found that approximately two-thirds of the youths diagnosed were male while nearly two-thirds of the adults diagnosed were female. Both groups were prescribed mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics in similar proportions, although a greater proportion of youth received prescriptions for stimulants while more adults were prescribed benzodiazepines.

"There is an urgent need to study the reliability and validity using multiple informant strategies of the diagnosis of child and adolescent bipolar disorder in community practice," the authors conclude, "and to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of pharmacological treatment regimens commonly used to treat youth diagnosed with bipolar disorder."

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