Medication Management in Children & Adolescents

Almost 21 percent of U.S. children ages nine to seventeen have had a diagnosable emotional, mental or addictive disorder that caused at least some impairment in daily functioning.

It is easy to overlook the seriousness of childhood emotional and mental disorders.

In children, these disorders may present with symptoms that are different from or less clear-cut than the same disorders in adults. Younger children especially, and sometimes older children as well may not talk about what is bothering them. For this reason, it is important to have a psychiatric team examine the child.

Many treatments are available to help these children. The treatments include both medications and psychotherapy — behavioral therapy, treatment of impaired social skills, parental and family therapy, and group therapy. The therapy used is based on the child’s diagnosis and individual needs.

When the decision is reached that a child should take medication, active monitoring by all caretakers (parents, teachers, and others who have charge of the child) is essential.

Children should be watched and questioned for side effects because many children, especially younger ones, do not volunteer information. They should also be monitored to see that they are actually taking the medication and taking the proper dosage on the correct schedule.

Childhood-onset depression and anxiety are increasingly recognized and treated. However, the best-known and most-treated childhood-onset emotional disorder is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD exhibit symptoms such as short attention span, excessive motor activity, and impulsivity which interfere with their ability to function, especially at school.

Based on clinical experience and knowledge of medication options, a psychiatrist may prescribe to young children a medication that has been approved by the FDA for use in adults or older children. This use of the medication is called “off-label.” Most medications prescribed for childhood mental disorders, including many of the newer medications that are proving helpful, are prescribed off-label because only a few of them have been systematically studied for safety and efficacy in children.

We are living in a time of exciting and revolutionary understanding of how stress affects brain function. Psychiatry has recently documented that numerous environmental stresses can alter the way that genes behave and express themselves in brain cells, which in turn affect brain cell energy levels and metabolism, and ultimately determine how brain circuits that regulate mood, thought, and anxiety are negatively affected.

Potomac Psychiatry’s physicians are highly trained and familiar with the different medication options available, and typically we use the lowest doses of medication possible to restore balanced functioning. We partner with you to deliver a mutually agreed-upon treatment program, whereby some clients are treated with medication management alone, and others with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Read more about psychiatric medication management.

At Potomac Psychiatry our psychiatrists specialize in childhood and adolescent psychiatric medication management issues. Call 301.327.1835 to contact us, discuss your needs and schedule an appointment. Our experienced professionals look forward to meeting you.