Prescriptions for depression and mental health disorders in the under-16 age group have quadrupled in England.
General Practitioners (GPs) in that part of the UK wrote more than 631,000 such prescriptions for children in the last financial year, compared to just 146,000 in the mid-1990s, a four-fold hike .
AdvertisementThe drug figures were obtained by David Laws, the Liberal Democrat shadow children's secretary.
He said: "I think it is a major concern that drugs seem to be prescribed so easily these days to children of school age.
"In the past, not only were there not as many of these types of drugs on the market, there was an assumption, I think, that people would try to get to the source of the problem, rather than simply prescribing drugs."
These latest figures on child prescriptions follow others which suggest that that the rate of anti-depressant prescriptions for the population as a whole has hit a record high.
More than 31m prescriptions for these drugs were issued in 2006 - a 6% rise on the year before.
The Royal College of General Practitioners accepted that depression could not be cured by pills alone, and that better access to alternative therapies was essential.
However its chairman, Professor Mayur Lakhani, has rejected the suggestion that family doctors prescribe anti-depressants too readily.
"GPs consider the need for anti-depressants only after a careful assessment of the patient's clinical condition," he said.
The Department of Children, Schools and Family said it was committed in helping "every child to have a happy and healthy childhood".
A spokesperson added that it had recently pledged Ģ60m to support schools work with "mental health practitioners and others to improve the emotional well-being of pupils".
It is also pointed out that in its last major report on the prevalence of such problems in 2004, the Office of National Statistics found the figures were broadly unchanged from a previous survey in 1999.
One in 10 were found to have some form of disorder, ranging from the very minor to the very serious.
The argument is there is no reason for any panic. Still many activists are concerned.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "While in some cases there may be a need for medication as part of a treatment plan, drugs should not be seen as the only solution.
"Children's mental health problems need to be tackled at the root by making therapy more widely available, by examining the causes and by encouraging better awareness amongst children themselves, parents, teachers and GPs," he stressed.
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