My son has been diagnosed as hyperactive and my ex-wife, a neurologist, prescibed Risperdal for him. He’s been on it three times and off it twice in the past year and a half. He first started the drug at age two and will be four this March. My question is: where can I find case studies of children this age on this drug. What are the dangers to his development?
Your query contains several important questions, and I will try and answer them in order.
First, you mention that your son has been diagnosed as “hyperactive,” but you do not mention exactly what his behavioral problems are, and you do not mention who made the diagnosis, nor whether it was a formal diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (as opposed to some simple observations of overly active behavior, which can be observed in many different conditions, as well as during normal development).
You also do not mention what the recommendations were for follow-up and treatment. I am a bit concerned, as the age of two years is on the early side for a child to be able to be formally diagnosed with ADHD. So the first important issue is for you to make sure that your son is getting a proper evaluation by a well-trained professional. This professional could be a behavioral pediatrician, a child psychiatrist, or even a well-trained pediatric neurologist. The evaluation should include a formal diagnosis, recommendations for further evaluations, and treatment options, as well as the pros and cons of various treatments.
Second, you mention that your ex-wife is prescribing Risperdal (risperidone) for your son. Risperidone is an antipsychotic medication that treats symptoms of hallucinations, agitation, and unusual thinking. It can also be helpful in people with extremely agitated or unusual motor behavior. It is sometimes used in children, but as with all medications in children, it must be used judiciously and only when all possible treatment options have been considered.
The main concern here is that it sounds like your ex-wife is prescribing medication for her own child. This is always a bad idea, since it is impossible for a physician to have any objectivity when treating her own family member. The American Medical Association strongly frowns upon such behavior, which can endanger the health of the family member as well as the professional standing of the physician.
Third, you ask where you can find more information on the use of risperidone in children. General consumer information can be found through the websites and publications of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and through the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), Child Division. Professional information (medical journal articles) can be found by doing a “medline” search of the ThriveOnline medical library, using the keywords “risperidone, children.” If you live near a state medical school, the library is open to the public and a medical librarian will be able to help you.
As far as we know currently, the use of medications like risperidone in children has not been associated with long-term physical consequences, but there is not very much research in this area. When there are behavioral or mental health problems in a child, we MUST ALWAYS make sure the child receives a thorough psychiatric and neurological evaluation as well as careful and thorough treatment recommendations. The entire future of the child is at stake.
We must also, all of us, make sure that our society provides the necessary resources so that these services are available to ALL of the children in our country, not just those with private health insurance or well-to-do parents. The future of our society is at stake.