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Science Update

June 19, 2006

Antipsychotic Prescriptions Rise Sharply for Children and Adolescents

The number of antipsychotic medication prescriptions for children and adolescents increased six-fold from 1993 to 2002, according to a study of visits made by people 20 years old and younger to doctors' offices. NIMH investigator Gonzalo Laje, MD, and colleagues from Columbia University reported in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry that prescriptions increased from 201,000 to 1.2 million during that time.

Researchers also found that 92 percent of the prescriptions were for the newer antipsychotic medications — the "second-generation" antipsychotics — during the period from 2000 to 2002. These medications are approved for adults by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but there is not yet enough data on their long-term safety and efficacy in children and adolescents for FDA to consider approval for this age group. Only two older antipsychotic medications are FDA-approved for youth.

In the analysis of data from 2000 to 2002, the prescription rate for antipsychotic medications was significantly higher for white, non-Hispanic male youth than for female youth and youth of other racial and ethnic groups. Among the disorders studied, the antipsychotic medications were prescribed most frequently for disruptive behavior disorders, followed by mood disorders and developmental disorders.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys, by the National Center for Health Statistics, for the study.

Olfson M, Blanco C, Liu L, Moreno C, Laje G. National Trends in the Outpatient Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Antipscychotic Drugs. Archives of General Psychiatry 63:679-685. June 2006.