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First Lady Expresses Concern About Growing Use of Psychiatric Drugs to Control Children's Behavior

Aired March 20, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Rodham Clinton warned parents today not to be too quick to put their children on Ritalin. Meeting at the White House with health and education experts, the first lady expressed concern about the growing use of mind-altering drugs to control children's behavior.

CNN medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first lady decided to call a meeting of administration officials, physicians, parenting groups, teachers and counselors to discuss the use of psychiatric medications to treat young children. A recent study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" showed the use of antidepressants has increased 220 percent in the last five years in children under 7. The use of Ritalin among children 2 to 4 to treat attention deficit disorder has doubled in the same period. The first lady wants to know: Are these drugs being used appropriately, and should more research into alternative therapies be done?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FIRST LADY: Some of them need a parent to love them or a person simply to listen to them talk about their pain. And yet some do have severe emotional and behavioral problems that can be greatly helped by prescription drugs.

O'CONNOR: The administration announced an initiative to conduct research and develop better labeling of these drugs for proper pediatric doses, dedicate $5 million to research on attention deficit disorder and the use of Ritalin, particularly among preschoolers, distribute a fact sheet for parents on the diagnosis and treatments available for children with emotional and behavioral conditions.

The head of the National Institute of Mental Health says that lack of research into the effects of these drugs being used on children as young as 2 is simply alarming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We also know that early childhood is a time of really accelerated brain development, and we really want to make sure that we're not doing anything to interfere with the normal development of a child's brain. O'CONNOR (on camera): A conference this fall is planned to review the results of this research and to look at alternative or complimentary therapies that can be used.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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