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Study Finds 141% Increase in Psychotropic Drug Restraints of Children

Chemical Restraint Children
CCHR says the latest study showing chemical drug restraints of hospitalized children reveals a culture of coercive psychiatric practices that should be banned and prosecuted

LOS ANGELES - PrZen -- A new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study has found a shocking 141% increase in the use of pharmacologic restraint among hospitalized children ages 5-17 years old with a mental health diagnosis. The study, published in Pediatrics, determined that pharmacological or chemical restraints are used with greater frequency on autistic children, low-income children and children of color.[1] The findings have prompted the mental health industry watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, based in Los Angeles, to reinforce the need for federal and state governments to prohibit the use of physical and chemical restraints in mental health-behavioral settings.

The AAP study examined over 90,000 mental health hospitalizations spanning 43 children's hospitals in the U.S. from 2016 to 2021. Pharmacological restraint was defined as the intravenous or intramuscular administration of five potent antipsychotics—a level of restraint deemed criminal child abuse by CCHR.

Despite the average restraint rate holding constant at around 3% over the five years of the study, there were significant increases over time—ranging from 40% to 323%—in the drug restraint rates for children diagnosed with so-called disruptive disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders and somatic symptom disorders.

The analysis asserts that more children are being subjected to drug restraints because more children are being admitted to mental health facilities. CCHR says this is an indicator of a failed psychiatric system in which billions of dollars are invested each year and should be reducing the number of children being hospitalized, not increasing it.

Another recently published study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine found a nearly 370% increase nationally in the use of chemical restraints over the past decade.[2]

In November, CCHR called for a ban on all pharmacologic and physical restraints, citing a similar World Health Organization (WHO) statement and an October Los Angeles Times exposé on the coercive use of restraints in psychiatric facilities.

The WHO and United Nations Guideline on "Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation" points to the need for accountability for coercive practices used in mental health systems, which if implemented, CCHR adds, could reduce restraint use. The guideline states: "When a law is transgressed, legislation should provide for effective civil, administrative or criminal sanctions and reparations. Such sanctions should be proportional to the gravity of the offense, the severity of the harm and the circumstances of each case."[3]

Physical restraints can result in serious physical injury or even death.[4] Cases of recent restraint deaths of a 7- and 16-year-old each resulted in a homicide ruling by medical examiners, leading in one of the cases to three staff being prosecuted and pleading guilty.[5]

Experts who spoke with The Defender, a news outlet for the Children's Health Defense, also "argued reliance on chemical restraints reflects the failure of a treatment model dominated by biological psychiatry rather than offering real or lasting solutions."[6]

The Defender further stated, "Given the lack of safety data on psychotropic drugs, especially for children (for antipsychotics, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, and antidepressants), and the alleged lack of scientific basis for mental health diagnoses, experts emphasized the need for informed consent and refusal rights as a means to combat the reflexive overmedication of distressed children."

The lack of scientific support for branding children with a mental disorder was raised by Prof. Allen Frances, a psychiatrist who headed the task force updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders IV in 1994. Sixteen years later, he admitted that the manual had helped create false "epidemics" of "autism, attention deficit, and childhood bipolar disorder."[7]

He explained further, "There are no objective tests in psychiatry—no X-ray, laboratory, or exam that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder."[8]

In April 2023, Frances told The New York Post he was sorry that DSM-IV "loosened the definition of autism," and feared that his work "contributed to the creation of diagnostic fads that resulted in the massive over-diagnosis of autistic disorders in children and adults." In the early 1980s, the autism rate was 5.5 per 100,000. Between 1995, one year after the DSM-IV was published, and 1997, the rate shot up to 44.9 per 100,000. By 2007, 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with the condition. According to a Centers for Disease report, 1 in 36 children have it today.[9]

Children are being arbitrarily and wrongly diagnosed with autism and other childhood "disorders," subjecting them to the risks associated with prescribed antipsychotics. Approximately one in six children with autism take antipsychotics, as indicated by a study. Risperidone (Risperdal), FDA-approved in 2006 to treat irritability in autistic children aged 5 and older, is one such antipsychotic. In 2009, aripiprazole (Abilify) received approval for children aged 6 and older. Prolonged use can result in Tardive Dyskinesia, an irreversible motor disturbance condition. Recent lawsuits have alleged that developers of aripiprazole failed to adequately warn users of potential side effects, including compulsive behaviors.[10]

Research connects risperidone to an elevated risk of developing excess breast tissue in young boys prescribed the drug, with the manufacturer paying out $800 million in lawsuit settlements over this risk.[11]

The use of physical and chemical restraints and other coercive and damaging practices being relied upon to control or alter childhood behavior is a culture that needs changing and something CCHR says it is committed to in 2024. The WHO-UN Guideline clearly states that non-intrusive, holistic approaches must replace the biomedical model. Until laws ban restraint use, CCHR urges parents to file civil and criminal complaints if a child is damaged from being physically or chemically restrained.

Abuse can also be reported to CCHR here.

[1] childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/psychiatric-drugs-chemical-restraints-children-mental-health, citing publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/doi/10.1542/peds.2023-062784/196192/Pharmacologic-Restraint-Use-During-Mental-Health?autologincheck=redirected

[2] ldi.upenn.edu/our-work/research-updates/how-patient-restraints-are-being-used-in-a-childrens-hospital/

[3] www.cchrint.org/2023/09/18/who-guideline-condemns-coercive-psychiatric-practices/, citing: www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/publications/WHO-OHCHR-Mental-health-human-rights-and-legislation_web.pdf, pp. xvii, 105

[4] ldi.upenn.edu/our-work/research-updates/how-patient-restraints-are-being-used-in-a-childrens-hospital/

[5] www.cchrint.org/2023/09/18/who-guideline-condemns-coercive-psychiatric-practices/, citing: www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/video-shows-fatal-restraint-cornelius-fredericks-16-michigan-foster-facility-n1233122; www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/09/19/death-child-jaceon-terry-brooklawn-kentucky-youth-center/10428004002/

[6] childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/psychiatric-drugs-chemical-restraints-children-mental-health

[7] www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/normality-endangered-species-psychiatric-fads-and-overdiagnosis

[8] www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/normality-endangered-species-psychiatric-fads-and-overdiagnosis

[9] nypost.com/2023/04/24/doctor-who-broadened-autism-spectrum-sorry-for-over-diagnosis/

[10] www.popsci.com/story/health/abilify-autism-drug-side-effects/

[11] www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/jj-settles-most-risperdal-lawsuits-with-800-million-expenses-2021-10-30/

Amber Rauscher

Source: CCHR International

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