More than 130,000 children, including 39,000 infants and toddlers, are being prescribed anti-anxiety drugs that are so addictive, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns they should not be prescribed for longer than a few weeks.
Mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International obtained the statistics from IMS health, a drug market research firm which also revealed that of this figure, over 98,000 two- to five-year-olds were prescribed the sedative-hypnotic drugs.
There has been a nearly 300% increase in the drugs prescribed babies and toddlers under the age of two since 2003, according to the research.
The class of drugs is called benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” “sedatives” and “tranquilizers” and has limited approval for the pediatric population for pre-anesthesia.
The widespread usage of sedation in children and toddlers has serious ramifications given the ongoing opioid crisis in America.
According to Psychiatric Drugs in Children and Adolescents Basic Pharmacology and Practical Applications, benzos have “not shown efficacy in anxiety disorders in double-blind placebo-controlled trials in children and adolescents.”
The Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide for benzodiazepines also says that safety of many of them has not been established in children. However, at least one benzo, lorazepam, is FDA-approved for treatment of anxiety in those aged 12 and older.
“None of this explains how nearly 40,000 infants and toddlers can be prescribed such potentially addictive drugs,” the CCHR has stated.
Further, a Psychology Today article in 2009 stated, “It is considered unwise to subject children to the potential for getting caught in the addictive grip of these drugs.”
Dr. David Sack, board certified in addiction medicine, said: “Tolerance and dependence can develop quickly. There have been reports of people who received high doses of benzodiazepines becoming physically dependent in as little as two days.”
Professor Malcolm Lader of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, was interviewed for the 2016 documentary, “Benzodiazepine Medical Disaster” in which he stated that withdrawing from benzodiazepines is more difficult than getting off heroin.
Professor Heather Ashton, a leading authority on benzodiazepine withdrawal in the United Kingdom, described the range of withdrawal symptoms, including nightmares, increased anxiety, panic attacks, perceptual distortions, depersonalization, hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, rage, aggression, and irritability.
The CCHR previously released figures it obtained from IMS Health that over 100,000 children age five or younger were prescribed antidepressants that carry FDA warnings of potentially causing suicidal behaviour and suicide.
Yet many more in the same age group are on highly addictive benzodiazepines, all of which requires a high priority government investigation and intervention, CCHR says.
The CCHR concluded by saying that insurance companies should also be alert to and report to authorities the high level of and long-term prescription of these drugs to children to help curb the potential for addiction.