Almost 20,000 prescriptions for risperidone (commonly known as Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), and other antipsychotic medications were written in 2014 for children 2 and younger, a 50 percent jump from 13,000 just one year before, according to the prescription data company IMS Health.
The data did not indicate the condition for which these prescriptions were written. Doctors can prescribe any medication for any purpose they see fit, so some drugs can occasionally be used in unproven and debatable ways. But the rise in psychotropics such as antipsychotics and antidepressants in children 2 and younger suggests a trend.
In interviews, a dozen child psychiatry and neurology experts said that they had never heard of a child that young receiving such medication, and struggled to explain it.
"You simply cannot make anything close to a diagnosis of psychological disorders in children of that age," said Dr. Ed Tronick, a professor of developmental and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston. "There's this very narrow range of what people think the prototype child should look like. Deviations from that lead them to seek out interventions like these. I think it's just nuts."