Psychosis in children is often treated with medications that calm and tranquilize the mind (tranquilizers and neuroleptics). But little did we know that they could cause weight gain and diabetes. So should the children stop receiving their antipsychotic medications?
For children and adolescents, the symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, anxiety, fear, tension, and disturbances of mind can be hard to manage. Many children who have pediatric-onset schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), do not respond to stimulant medications, in such cases too, antipsychotic drugs play a significant role.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry said that children on these medications were at increased risk of obesity and diabetes as they tend to increase fat deposition in the body and reduce body’s sensitivity to insulin.
The study included 144 young children of age group 6 to 18 years who were treated with antipsychotics — either aripiprazole, olanzapine or risperidone for disruptive disorders. Of all the three medicines, olanzapine produced largest weight gain due to increased body fat deposits. The number of children who were considered obese after 12 weeks of treatment rose to 46.5 percent.
Ginger E. Nicol, Associate Professor at the Washington University in US, said, “if we do treat children with antipsychotics, we have to be diligent in monitoring body weight as well as blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and then be prepared to change course if we see adverse medication effects that could increase long-term risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions,”.
John W. Newcomer, Lead Investigator, Psychiatrist & Professor, Florida Atlantic University, US, added, “It is a challenge for clinicians because we know that antipsychotic medications can produce rapid improvements in disruptive behavioral symptoms in children, but not without serious health consequences.”
Further Newcomer added, “We believe it is time to really hit the brakes on the common first-line use of these medications in children with non-psychotic behavior disorders and to implement more consistent frontline use of behavioral treatment options that are available and effective,”
It is a great challenge indeed to manage both psychosis, their complications and the side effects of the medications together. Both obesity and diabetes are major lifestyle diseases faced by millions around the globe.