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Prozac Preschool

March 1, 2018
Sudan Donaldson James
Pacific Standard

From the time he was a baby, Max, now seven, struggled with crippling anxiety.

“He would fly into screaming rages for no apparent reason,” says his mother, Stacy, a 44-year-old lawyer from Seattle who wanted to keep her family’s identity private. “He was constantly on edge.”

At two years old, Max began three years of behavioral therapy, “but it did nothing to help him,” Stacy says. His fear-driven outbursts continued into kindergarten. “Some days, he couldn’t even walk into class. I’d have 45 minutes of crying and screaming.”

Finally, at age five, Max went on the antidepressant Prozac and his fear quickly subsided. “Prozac almost immediately brought our joyful, loving son back to us from his previous perennial fight-or-flight existence. He’s his best self every day,” says Stacy, whose only question is why she had resisted the medication for so long.

A surprising number of the nation’s youngest children are being prescribed psychiatric drugs, some younger than preschool, according to health-care industry data on physician prescriptions in the United States.

Widely reported data collected in 2014 from IMS Health show that more than eight million children are prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar and behavioral disorders. More than one million of them are younger than five.