Doctors Put Foster Children at Risk With Mind-Altering Drugs


Dr. Charles Zeanah, a prominent child psychiatrist who is careful to use a minimum of psychotropic medication in children, said that doctors are under pressure from all corners to do something with these troubled children and medication is one of their tools.

"The pressures that I'm aware of are pressures that come from families and schools who have kids with troubling behavior," he said. "They want something done. They want something done quickly."

Still, he adds, "The general consensus is that when you're treating young children, you always try behavioral intervention before you go to medication."

The problem has not gone unnoticed by some state officials. In the state of Washington, doctors and regulators have implemented a new system to oversee psychotropic medication and identify red flag cases that exceed safety limits, by dosage or number of medications, or arise because of the young age of the child. In those red flag cases, a second opinion by a child psychiatrist is needed before medication can be dispensed.

And some states including Louisiana, Florida and New York are even going so far as kicking out high-prescribing doctors out of Medicaid.

Sen. Carper, who called for the GAO investigation, said he was shocked by the findings.

"The idea that these kids are taking one, two, three times the regular dose for a child or for an adult -- it's just the wrong thing to do," he said. "We need to get to the bottom of this and do the best that we can to stop it, not just the Congress, not just the doctors, not just the states. All of us together."

ABC News' Mark Abdelmalek contributed to this report.

Watch the full episode here.

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