Despite the percentage of children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, most do not have a psychotic disorder - the drugs are being used to help young people cope with ADHD and depression. Photo: racorn/Shutterstock
NEW YORK, July 6 (UPI) -- Antipsychotic drugs have become popular options for treatment of children and young people -- a new study shows that nearly 3 percent of children and adolescents, notably many more boys than girls, receive a prescription for them.
Researchers found that the vast majority of prescriptions are being used for treatment of attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD, and depression, rather than for the mental disorders they are most associated with.
"No prior study has had the data to look at age patterns in antipsychotic use among children the way we do here," said Michael Schoenbaum, Ph.D., senior advisor for mental health services, epidemiology and economics at National Institute of Mental Health, in a press release. "What's especially important is the finding that around 1.5 percent of boys aged 10-18 are on antipsychotics, and then this rate abruptly falls by half, as adolescents become young adults."
While the drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with bipolar disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia, and autism, doctors often prescribe them to help with management of developmentally limited impulsive and aggressive behaviors instead of the psychotic symptoms they are meant to treat.
The study included a review of data on more than 2.5 million antipsychotic prescriptions written between 2006 and 2010. Boys aged 1 to 6 were shown to be almost twice as likely to be prescribed antipsychotics, and nearly three times as likely to be prescribed them between the ages of 7 and 12, however as children get older the data shows difference between boys and girls prescribed the drugs gets more narrow. By the time children reach college age, 19 to 24, rates between boys and girls are nearly even as more than 1.6 percent of people that age are prescribed antipsychotic drugs of some sort.
While researchers note that roughly 75 percent of children being treated with antipsychotics have had "at least some contact with a psychiatrist," pyschotherapy was provided to about 25 percent of those children.
"Antipsychotics should be prescribed with care," said Schoenbaum. "They can adversely affect both physical and neurological function and some of their adverse effects can persist even after the medication is stopped."
The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.