Palm Beach Post

Post investigation: Anti-psychotics in juvie jails

Saturday, May 21, 2011

For some girls in custody at a state camp in Okeechobee, medications made the bookends of the day: Risperdal and trazadone and pills whose names were so long and complicated that they tripped up a 14-year-old’s tongue. More than any other drug, there was Seroquel.

Pills went out at such a rate, said one inmate, now three years out of state custody, that even a confused teenager could tell that this wasn’t how things were supposed to be.

A Palm Beach Post investigation has found a startling story playing out in jails and programs operated by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. For kids in DJJ custody, the state has bought hundreds of thousands of tablets of Seroquel, Risperdal, Abilify and other powerful anti-psychotic drugs. The drugs, doctors say, can turn misbehaving kids into “zombies.”

In some cases, the psychiatrists charged with evaluating children in DJJ custody have ties to drug companies, a situation that medical ethicists say could pose problems.

Read The Post on Sunday and Monday to learn what the newspaper uncovered – and what the state is doing about it.