Antipsychotics Tied to Weight Gain in Kids
> 11/4/2009 7:57:34 PM


The unpredictable and potentially devastating nature of psychotic disorders makes regular medication a necessity. While personal and cognitive behavioral therapy plans may provide significant gains for affected subjects, only medication can minimize the extreme highs and lows that define their conditions. Unfortunately, these powerful antipsychotic drugs also carry serious side effects beyond symptomatic relief, the most notable being severe weight gain. Subjects taking medications like Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Abilify almost always put on weight, and depending on several variables their BMIs may increase at a rapid and decidedly unhealthy pace.
The problem has plagued pharmaceutical researchers for some time, and manufacturers advertise each new generation of atypical antipsychotics bills as a significant improvement on the last. It's true that newer drugs are generally safer, but they've been unable to resolve the weight gain problem, and the latest wave of meds is no exception. The most alarming aspect of a new report on the subject is the declining ages of those most affected. Younger children now take these drugs for the treatment of not only schizophrenia but bipolar disorder and, in an increasing number of cases, ADHD.
A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined a group of 247 newly medicated children, aged 4 to 19, over an 11-week period. None of these children had been treated with antipsychotics before, so their increasing body masses cannot be attributed to previous exposure to similar meds or to unrelated behavioral changes. These facts make the study's findings even more shocking: subjects gained 10-19 pounds over the study's breadth for an average weight increase of more than 1 pound per week. Apply this effect to a long-term treatment plan and its implications grow more serious: weight gain on this scale will almost certainly lead to complications like diabetes, hypertension, and various forms of heart disease. 
The brevity of this study and the relative youth of its subjects make clear that dietary choices had little or no influence on the dramatic weight gain observed. Researchers have yet to determine exactly how these drugs alter the metabolic cycle, but this study makes the dramatic cause and effect relationship between antipsychotics and weight gain even more obvious. Unfortunately, despite new names and new marketing campaigns, subjects suffering from psychoses face the same stark choices: go without medication or experience its side effects.


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