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Use of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

TitleUse of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsCoury, DL, Anagnostou, E, Manning-Courtney, P, Reynolds, AM, Cole, L, McCoy, R, Whitaker, A, Perrin, JM
JournalPediatrics
Volume130
PaginationS69-76
Date PublishedNov
KeywordsAdolescent, AIM, Child, Child Development Disorders, Female, Humans, IM, Male, Pervasive/dt [Drug Therapy], Preschool, Psychotropic Drugs/tu [Therapeutic Use]
Abstract

OBJECTIVES: The goal of this study was to examine rates of psychotropic medication use and identify associated child and family characteristics among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) enrolled in an autism registry maintained by the Autism Treatment Network (ATN). METHODS: The sample, derived from the ATN registry, consists of 2853 children aged 2 to 17 years with diagnoses of ASD supported by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule with available data on medication use. As part of initial enrollment in the registry, parents completed questionnaires on current psychotropic medication use, psychiatric and medical conditions, and demographics. RESULTS: Of the 2853 children, 763 (27%) were taking >= 1 psychotropic medication; 15% were prescribed 1 medication, 7.4% received 2 medications, and 4.5% received >= 3. Among children aged 3 to 5 years, 11% were taking >= 1 psychotropic medication; among 6- to 11-year-old children, 46%; and 66% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years were taking at >= 1 psychotropic medication. A parent report of comorbid diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or anxiety was associated with a high rate of use, with 80% receiving >= 1 psychotropic medication. Only 15% of children with no comorbid psychiatric disorder were taking psychotropic medication. Psychotropic medication use was also related to sleep and gastrointestinal problems. CONCLUSIONS: The prescription of psychotropic medications in this registry sample is highly related to comorbid psychiatric disorder. Other factors associated with use include medical comorbidities, race, ethnicity, and older age.

Summary

Lead Author
Dan Coury

Study Aims/Objectives
To examine rates of taking psychotropic medications (drugs used to treat psychiatric conditions) amongst children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to identify characteristics of the child and his or her family that align with higher rates of psychotropic medication use.

Methods - Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
Using data from the ATN registry, which includes parent completed questionnaires on current psychotropic medication use, as well as a history of psychiatric and medical conditions, researchers determined rates of psychotropic medication use. In total 2853 children aged 2 to 17 years were included in the study.

Results – Main Finding(s)
Of the 2853 participants, 763 (27%) were prescribed at least one psychotropic medication. Medication use varied substantially by age. While only 1% of children under age 3 were prescribed psychotropic medication, 10% of those between 3 and 5, 44% of 6- to 11-year-olds, and 64% of adolescents (12-17) were prescribed these drugs. Nonwhite and Latino-white subjects had significantly lower use of psychotropic medications compared to non-Latino white subjects. Children and adolescents with ASD who are also diagnosed with a psychiatric condition showed much higher rates of psychotropic medication use compared to those without this second diagnosis (80% vs. 15%).

Conclusion – Summary Statement
The prescription of psychotropic medications in the ATN registry is highly related to diagnosis of a co-occurring psychiatric disorder such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, etc. Other factors associated with use included certain medical conditions, race, ethnicity, and older age.

PubMed ID23118256