Get Kids Off Medicine program is launched in metro area

Martin Irwin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, is launching what he believes is a first- of-its kind-program nationally to "Get Kids Off Medicine."
The LSUHSC Get Kids Off Medicine Program, dedicated to tapering and discontinuing psychiatric medication for children being treated with three or more psychiatric medications, is being implemented three half days a week at the LSU Behavioral Science Center at 3450 Chestnut Street. The program accepts Medicaid and most insurance. Discounted and possible free care will be provided to those who qualify based on income.
"Along with the increase in prevalence of mental illness in children and youth, is a skyrocketing rate of use of psychiatric medication often as the sole treatment and most commonly to treat disruptive behaviors and aggression," says Dr. Irwin, who specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. "It is not uncommon for children even as young as five to six years of age to be on multiple medications, as many as four to five at the same time."
Dr. Irwin says the over-medicating of the problems of children in the mental health system is likely to result in misdiagnosis-labeling of behavioral problems that result from interpersonal difficulties, realistic feelings that are not excessive or out of proportion to the child's real life experiences, or reactions to current life stresses as major psychiatric disorders leading to unnecessary medical treatment. Many of the medications used to treat children are either not approved by the FDA for use in this age group, or are not approved for the indication they are being prescribed.
Dr. Irwin notes that optimal treatment, including use of medication, is predicated on complete and comprehensive evaluations leading to reliable, meaningful and valid diagnosis, case formulation and treatment recommendations. He says it is extremely rare that medication should be the sole treatment. A comprehensive treatment plan including, when indicated, recommendations for other mental health interventions, a behavior management plan and psycho educational planning should be part of every evaluation.
"Non-medical mental health interventions are generally more effective and should be tried first," says Dr. Irwin. "One should have a healthy respect for the side effects of the medication and therefore not over rely on it. Overall the medication should be used cautiously and only after other non-medical interventions have been tried and failed."
For more information about the LSUHSC Get Kids Off Medicine Program or to make an appointment, call (504) 412-1582.

This article was originally published in the December 15, 2008 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper