Psychotropics Seem to Be Appropriately Prescribed to Teens

14.2 percent of sample of U.S. teens report being treated with psychotropic meds in past year

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- There is no evidence that psychotropic medications are being overly prescribed or misused by U.S. adolescents, according to a study published online Dec. 3 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Kathleen R. Merikangas, Ph.D., from the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 10,123 adolescent participants in the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, a nationally representative survey, to examine the prevalence, demographic and clinical correlates, and specificity of classes of psychotropic medications.

The researchers found that, of youths with any mental disorder, 14.2 percent reported being treated with a psychotropic medication in the past year. For specific disorders there were strong associations for classes of medications with evidence of efficacy. For those with mood disorders, antidepressants were most frequently used (14.1 percent); attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder was most commonly treated with stimulant use (20.4 percent); and antipsychotic use was infrequent and was mainly seen among those with serious developmental disorders. Psychotropic medications were prescribed to less than 2.5 percent of adolescents without a 12-month mental disorder, and most had evidence of psychological distress or impairment indicative of a previous disorder, subthreshold condition, or neurodevelopmental disorder. Those being treated by mental health specialists were significantly more likely to be treated with appropriate medications compared with those treated by general medicine providers or other specialists.

"These findings challenge recent concerns over widespread overmedication and misuse of psychotropic medications in U.S. youth," the authors write. "In fact, these data highlight the need for greater recognition and appropriate treatment of youth with mental health disorders."

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