TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Use of powerful antipsychotic medications such as Abilify and Risperdal to control youngsters with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavior problems has skyrocketed in recent years, a new study finds.
Antipsychotics are approved to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, other serious mental problems and irritability related to autism. But they don't have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for ADHD or other childhood behavior problems, and their use for this purpose is considered "off label."
"Only a small proportion of antipsychotic treatment of children (6 percent) and adolescents (13 percent) is for FDA-approved clinical indications," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
"These national trends focus attention on the substantial and growing extent to which children diagnosed with ADHD and other disruptive behavioral disorders are being treated with antipsychotic medications," said Olfson.
The researchers found that doctor visits between 1993-1998 and 2005-2009 that involved a prescription of antipsychotic medication for children jumped sevenfold -- from 0.24 to 1.83 per 100 people. For teens, 14 to 20 years old, the rate rose from 0.78 to 3.76 per 100 people, and for adults, it just about doubled, from 3.25 to 6.18 per 100 people.
Many of the prescriptions for children were ordered by doctors who are not psychiatrists, the researchers found.
Although these drugs can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD, he said. Nor has their long-term effect on children's developing brains been studied.
Olfson said most children and adolescents treated with antipsy
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