A truly depressing European study has highlighted what mental health experts in Portugal have been warning about for years.
The under-16s in this country are prescribed more sedatives and tranquilizers than European counterparts.
The uptake of these potentially health-compromising pharmaceuticals has an uptake of 8% across 36 countries.
But Portugal’s tally is 13%.
If analysed more closely, the percentage of girls under the age of 16, for example, on this kind of medication goes up to 16%.
And if experts are to be believed, the reasons are all wrong.
Doctors and families worried about the issues troubling their children all want “a quick solution”, child psychiatrist Áurea Ataide explained in an interview with RTP’s Good Morning Portugal.
But the “quick solution” can have devastating effects on the child’s long-term health.
Álvaro de Carvalho of the country’s mental health programme explained to Público: “The maturity of the nervous system in general terms only ends when the child has fully grown up. There are strong suspicions, with some scientific evidence, that the consumption of psychotropic substances interferes with this process. In other words, a child or teenager who consumes amphetamines and benzodiazapines can see their cognitive and emotional development compromised”.
The “scenario” is further complicated by the lack of health professionals trained to deal mental health issues.
Predictably, there is no quick fix to this problem, either. Studies like this one, released within the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) simply put renewed focus on an issue where both general practitioners and parents have to try to resist the ‘quick solution’ and tackle problems at their roots.
Said Áurea Ataide she has no doubt that young children’s fears and worries can be talked through without any kind of recourse to drugs…. if people just gave them the time.