“the head of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice ordered a sweeping review of the department’s use of antipsychotic medications”


Palm Beach Post
Huge doses of potent antipsychotics flow into state jails for troubled kids
By Michael LaForgia
May 21, 2011

Florida has plied children in state juvenile jails with heavy doses of powerful antipsychotic medications.

The pills, widely viewed as the “big guns” of psychiatry, can cause suicidal thoughts and other dangerous side effects.

Yet, in state-run jails and residential programs, antipsychotics were among the top drugs bought for kids – and they routinely were doled out for reasons that never were approved by federal regulators, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.

Reacting to the newspaper’s findings, the head of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice ordered a sweeping review of the department’s use of antipsychotic medications. As it stands now, DJJ doesn’t track prescriptions and has no way of telling whether doctors are putting kids on pills simply to make them easier to control.

“This is a very important issue,” said Broward County Public Defender Howard Fink­elstein, whose office represents children in juvenile court. “If kids are being given these drugs without proper diagnosis, and it is being used as a ‘chemical restraint,’ I would characterize it as a crime. A battery – a battery of the brain each and every time it is given.”

In some cases, the drugs are prescribed by contract doctors who have taken huge speaker fees and other gifts from makers of antipsychotic pills, companies that reap staggering profits selling medications, The Post found.

The medications have poured out at such a rate, said one former inmate, that even a confused teenager could tell that this wasn’t how things were supposed to be.

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