American children are about three times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication than children in Europe. The differences may be a result of differing regulatory practices, along with cultural beliefs about the role of medication in emotional and behavioral problems.
A team of researchers from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands investigated prescription levels in the three countries. Antidepressant and stimulant use was three or more times greater in the U.S. than in the Netherlands and Germany, while antipsychotic prevalence was 1.5 to 2.2 times greater.
The researchers pointed to different diagnostic classification systems, government cost restrictions in Europe, the larger number of child psychiatrists per capita in the U.S. and the use of two or more different psychotropic drugs in a single year in U.S. children as possible explanations. Direct-to-consumer drug advertising, which is common in the U.S., was also considered to be a likely reason for the difference.