Meds and you

02 July 2015

Antipsychotics prescribed for inappropriate conditions

A worrying trend in the USA is that antipsychotic medications are being prescribed for conditions like ADHD and depression.


A growing number of teens and young adults are being prescribed powerful antipsychotics, even though the medications aren't approved to treat two disorders – ADHD and depression – they are commonly used for, a new study shows.

ADHD and depression

Researchers found that antipsychotic use rose among children aged 13 and older – from 1.1 percent in 2006 to nearly 1.2 percent in 2010. And among young adults – people aged 19 to 24 – antipsychotic use increased from 0.69 percent in 2006 to 0.84 percent in 2010.

Of concern to some experts are the conditions for which many of these antipsychotic prescriptions are being written, namely attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves this class of drugs for psychiatric conditions such as psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or impulsive aggression tied to autism.

But the new report finds that by 2009, 52.5 percent of younger children (aged 1 to 6), 60 percent of older children (aged 7 to 12) and about 35 percent of teens who got an antipsychotic were diagnosed with ADHD.

Read: Causes of ADHD

"ADHD is a main diagnosis being targeted by antipsychotic treatment in children and adolescents – this is not an adequate diagnostic indication," said Dr. Vilma Gabbay, chief of the Paediatric Mood and Anxiety Disorders Programme at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

She noted that the new study showed that the rise in antipsychotic prescribing in teenagers and young adults was most pronounced in males. Since boys are more prone to ADHD than girls, "this trend explains the increased rates of males compared [to] females being prescribed antipsychotics," she said.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and led by Dr. Mark Olfson, from the department of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Read more:

Many kids on antipsychotics for ADHD

Antipsychotics over-prescribed: study

Antipsychotics best for controlling mania

Image: Antipsychotics from Shutterstock

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