By Holly Lebowitz Rossi

Foster children are prescribed strong antipsychotic drugs at rates that are similar to the most mentally disabled young people on Medicaid, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found.  The study found that three drugs in particular--Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa--are often prescribed in tandem, not for their antipsychotic effects, but as "major tranquilizers."

Researchers expressed alarm that the drugs are being used to treat "troubled kids" who do not have the severe mental health disorders that would legitimately warrant heavy use of the medications.  Two percent of foster children are given some form of medication, the study reports, a number that is significantly different from the average number of children who are given diagnoses of schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.

"We simply don't have evidence to support this kind of use, especially in young children," Susan dosReis, an associate professor in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the lead author, told The New York Times.

Image:  Pill bottle, via Shutterstock.

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