Doctors now want to screen every single American child over the age of eight for anxiety, even if they don’t present with symptoms. The new recommendations might lead to a spike in the number of anti-anxiety prescriptions.
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All American children over the age of eight should be examined for anxiety, according to a prestigious panel of doctors, even if they do not exhibit any symptoms.
The latest guidelines were released on Tuesday by the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), one of the most prominent organizations in American healthcare.
Additionally, it advocates for physicians to check for depression in all children above the age of 12 regardless of their reported symptoms.
The organization suspects cases are going untreated as a consequence of a physician shortage and an increase in mental health issues following the pandemic.
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Just a month ago, the same group suggested that all individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 get screened for both conditions.
If doctors followed the task force’s guidelines, they would have to examine at least 200 million Americans.
These ideas have raised worries from experts who worry that they could result in an overmedicated populace and a new opioid catastrophe.
The most often used anxiety medications are benzodiazepines, which include highly addictive substances like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
A nursing professor at George Mason University and USPSTF member, Dr. Matha Kubik, said: “The Task Force reviewed the evidence on screening for anxiety, depression, and suicide risk to provide primary care professionals with guidance on how they can help support the mental health of children and adolescents.
“Fortunately, screening older children for anxiety and depression can identify these conditions so children and teens can receive the care that they need.”
Despite being highly respected, the independent panel has no authority to enforce its advice, and physicians are not obligated to do so.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8% of children between the ages of three and 17 have an anxiety disorder.
Additionally, according to a Yale University study, depression affects 3% of people under the age of 18.
Figures are thought to have increased during the outbreak, which hurt numerous younger folks due to interruptions to daily life and less opportunities for social connection.
According to Dr. Lori Pbert, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts, “The Task Force cares deeply about the mental health of all children and adolescents.”
“Unfortunately, there are key evidence gaps related to screening for anxiety and depression in younger children and screening for suicide risk in all youth.
“We are calling for more research in these critical areas so we can provide healthcare professionals with evidence-based ways to keep their young patients healthy.”
The new recommendations, according to experts, might lead to a spike in the number of anti-anxiety prescriptions.
Some worry that the US is already experiencing a developing addiction issue as a result of these extremely addictive medications.
According to Dr. Anna Lembke, director of Stanford University’s Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, “In the United States when the Joint Commission mandated that all doctors screen all patients for pain, even when patient’s did not come in for pain complaints or demonstrate physical stigmata of being in pain, the result was increased opioid prescribing, contributing to our current opioid epidemic.
“I could see something similar happening with mandated screening of anxiety.”
Dr. Lembke stated that she had the same reservations about screening kids as she has about screening adults.
Others have cautioned that it is inappropriate to have primary care physicians examine individuals for mental health issues rather than psychologists.
These physicians lack the necessary education, Dr. Jonathan Shedler, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, said to Fox News last month.
These assessments may also lead someone who reports no symptoms to develop a reliance on drugs with a high potential for addiction.
“This kind of screening is going to diagnose huge numbers of people with a disorder and a good number of them are going to end up on a lifelong path of one medication and one treatment after another,” Dr Shedler explained.
“When, in fact, they’re responding to realistic circumstances in the world.”
Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” which include drugs like Valium, Klonopin, and Xanax, are particularly risky.
Due to their severe adverse effects and high level of addiction, the substances are common party drugs.
According to studies, a person who regularly takes the medications to treat extremely severe cases of anxiety may quickly develop a dependence on them.
Because the body develops a tolerance to the drugs, frequent users will eventually require progressively more to manage their addiction.
Prescriptions eventually expire or are no longer available, just like opioids.
In the worst circumstances, drug addicts migrate to the streets, where circulating drugs may include harmful impurities like fentanyl.
Fentanyl is the primary cause of the opioid overdose issue in America, accounting for 70% of the 107,000 overdose deaths that were reported there in 2021.