September 21, 2006
The B.C. government is being urged to look at how prescription drugs are given to children in government care, after a new report revealed kids in care are up to 12 times more likely to be prescribed stimulant drugs like Ritalin.
A joint special report from B.C.'s child and youth officer and the provincial health officer showed children in care are prescribed mental-health drugs at significantly higher rates than those in the general population. Kids in care, for example, receive Ritalin-type prescriptions at a rate 8.5 to 12 times higher.
"It does raise a concern when 10 times as many children in care are being prescribed these medications," child and youth officer Jane Morley told 24 hours in an interview yesterday. "... There's some research that suggests that [Ritalin-type drugs] could have secondary effects that aren't good, and also we don't know for sure how effective it is."
Morley said the Ministry of Children, as the "responsible parent" for children in its care, should consult with B.C.'s College of Physicians and Surgeons to determine if kids in care are being over- prescribed.
It may turn out, said Morley, that prescription rates are fine as they are. "It's not that we're saying it's necessarily wrong, but we've got to be cautious about it."
A 2000 review by the College found the province had a five-fold increase in Ritalin use, mainly due to more frequent diagnoses of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder. It concluded Ritalin was being prescribed responsibly.
Morley's report also showed that compared to the general population, kids in government care had higher rates of death and injury, depression, early pregnancy, and were also four times as likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
- 9,083 children in care.
- 49% are aboriginal (General population: 7%).
- 65% in continuing care diagnosed with mental disorder (four times that of general population).