Psychotropic medication in children: a study from the Netherlands

Pediatrics. 2001 Aug;108(2):E25. doi: 10.1542/peds.108.2.e25.


Objective: Although there is a global concern about the increased use of psychotropic agents in children, most research literature originates in the United States and is based on figures from the first half of the 1990s. Also, few studies document the use of various types of psychotropic agents. The objective of this study was to investigate the use of psychotropic medication in children in the Netherlands and to determine whether this corresponds with previously reported figures from the United States.

Methods: A drug utilization study based on computerized pharmacy dispensing records was conducted from 1995 to 1999 for children aged 0 to 19 years in the north of the Netherlands.

Results: Stimulants were the most widely used psychotropic agents among 0- to 19-year-olds (prevalence: 7.4/1000 in 1999), followed by hypnotics/anxiolytics (6.9/1000) and antidepressants (4.4/1000). Prevalence rates of stimulants increased from 1.5/1000 in 1995 to 7.4/1000 in 1999. Incidence rates, proportion of girls, and duration of stimulant treatment increased as well. Changes in prevalence rates of other psychotropic agents were much smaller than those of stimulants. Finally, the vast majority of children who were treated with psychotropic agents used only 1 agent at a time.

Conclusion: The prevalence of stimulant use in the Netherlands is much lower than reported previously (28/1000 children in 1995) from the United States, and differences also existed with regard to the use of other psychotropic agents and combinations of psychotropic agents. However, the increase in Dutch stimulant use agrees with the previously reported 2.5-fold increase in the United States and shows that the increased use of stimulants is not limited to the United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drug Utilization
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Psychotropic Drugs