Tens of thousands of French children are on psychotropic drugs, says new study

psychotropic children france

A new report has disclosed a shocking revelation about the extent of psychotropic drug use among children in France. 

The report put out on 13th March by the High Council for the Family, Childhood and Age (HCFEA) has revealed how psychotropic drug use is becoming more and more common in children as young as six years old in France.  


An estimated 2.72% of young people under the age of 20 consumed hypnotics or anxiolylics in 2021: drugs with well-known brand names such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan that are commonly used to treat conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders. This is up from 2.01% in 2010.  

The consumption of antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilisers and psychostimulants is also on the rise, though less than 1% of young people under the age of 20 are taking drugs from each of these categories.  

The percentages may seem nominal, but in real, human terms, this means that tens of thousands of children are regularly taking psychotropic drugs. 

The report, using figures from the National Health Insurance Fund and the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products between 2010 and 2021, showed that paediatric consumption of antipsychotic drugs was up by 114%, 148% for psychostimulants, and 179% for antidepressants.  

“The figures have doubled between 2010 and 2021, and this places us among the most prescribing countries in Europe,” said the president of the Council for Childhood and Adolescence at HCFEA, Sylviane Giampino. 


The study also found that 40% of paediatric prescriptions made at doctor’s offices and between 67% and 94% of those issued in hospitals were made against recommendations for general usage, meaning drugs not specifically made to treat children.    

As doctors and caregivers are more stretched than ever, authorities worry that the risk of practices offering drugs in place of psychotherapeutic, educational and social aids, which are intended to give distressed children and their families support in time of crisis, will grow. This would lead to more children relying on these drugs, leaving them with possible long-term side effects. 


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Photo source: Miriam Zilles for Unsplash