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Psychotropic Drug Conference

​​​​On average, youth entering Boys Town’s Intensive Residential Treatment Center (IRTC) are taking nearly four psychotropic medications. These medications, which have been studied for adult use, affect brain chemicals related to mood and behavior.

Boys Town practitioners very carefully manage the medications taken by Boys Town youth, ensuring that they take what they need, but no more. Medication rates for Boys Town youth can be significantly reduced because clinical improvement is largely the result of the psychoeducational treatment with medications only used as needed.

While these medications can successfully combat depression, anxiety, psychosis, ADHD and many other mental health disorders in children, they have also shown evidence of causing weight gain, which can lead to several other health issues; can slow development, are often prescribed for reasons not tested for, or are prescribed to treat the side effects of another psychotropic taken by the patient. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning of a possible increased risk of suicidal ideation in some child and adolescent patients prescribed antidepressants.

Despite the lack of research about its effectiveness in youth, and evidence of adverse of effects, psychotropic medication rates have drastically increased in behaviorally disordered children since the early 1990s – raising concern from medical, mental health and child experts that it may be overused and understudied.

To address these issues, a diverse group of researchers, physicians, human service organizations and other child advocates gathered for a two-day conference at the Village of Boys Town and the Boys Town National Research Hospital ® to discuss the use of psychotropic medications in the youth population.

According to Jon Huefner, Boys Town National Research Institute SM, Research Scientist, the conference was a “working meeting” with three stages:

  1. Identify areas of research needed
  2. Determine information currently available
  3. Form preliminary research teams

Going forward, these research teams will work to advance general knowledge on the topic by examining the forces that drive the current high medication rates, establishing processes for taking kids off the medications, and defining effective management of medication use within the context of other treatments. The long-term objective is to successfully conduct initial studies which will support future grant applications for further research in what could easily result in multiple five-year studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, according to Ron Thompson, Boys Town National Research Institute SM Director.

“We are very honored to not only be a part of, but play a leadership role in this research initiative,” said Thompson. “Because we provide life-changing care to children and families, we of course have a strong interest in the outcome of this research. But this isn’t just about Boys Town, it’s about advancing this agenda nationwide.”

Funding for the conference was made possible through a grant provided by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.