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Psychotropic Drug Use in Youths Varies Across Countries

Use of medication is significantly greater in United States than in the Netherlands or Germany

MONDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment patterns of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents vary widely between the United States, the Netherlands and Germany, according to an article in the Sept. 25 issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.

Julie M. Zito, of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues examined psychotropic medication use in the Netherlands, Germany and the United States to determine cross-national prevalence. The investigators used administrative claims data for the year 2000. The data included insured youth who were aged 19 or younger in the year 2000 (110,944 from the Netherlands, 356,520 from Germany and 127,157 from the United States).

Psychotropic medication use among U.S. youth (6.7 percent) was significantly greater than use in the Netherlands (2.9 percent) or Germany (2 percent), the researchers report. Use of antidepressant and stimulant medications was at least three times greater in the United States compared to the Netherlands and Germany, while antipsychotic use was 1.5 to 2.2 times greater. Atypical antipsychotics were used commonly in the United States (66 percent) and in the Netherlands (48 percent), but less so in Germany (5 percent), the report indicates. Dutch youth were twice as likely as U.S. and German youth to use anxiolytics, but overall use of this class was uncommon.

"The major finding of this cross-national prevalence study of psychotropic medications prescribed for youth is that the U.S. prevalence exceeds Western European prevalence for overall psychotropic use and that drug class rates differ cross-nationally," the authors conclude. "Understanding these differences should help clarify and hopefully improve our understanding of the various influences on psychotropic drug treatment."

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