Context: Although there are indications that antipsychotic drugs are increasingly used to treat children and adolescents, little is known about the characteristics of those who receive them.
Objective: To examine national trends and patterns in antipsychotic treatment of youth seen by physicians in office-based medical practice.
Design: Analysis of national trends of visits (1993-2002) that included prescription of antipsychotics, and comparison of the clinical and demographic characteristics of visits (2000-2002) that included or did not include antipsychotic treatment.
Setting: Outpatient visits to physicians in office-based practice.
Participants: Patient visits by persons 20 years and younger from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys from 1993 to 2002.
Main outcome measures: Visits that included prescription of antipsychotics.
Results: In the United States, the estimated number of office-based visits by youth that included antipsychotic treatment increased from approximately 201,000 in 1993 to 1,224,000 in 2002. From 2000 to 2002, the number of visits that included antipsychotic treatment was significantly higher for male youth (1913 visits per 100,000 population) than for female youth (739 visits per 100,000 population), and for white non-Hispanic youth (1515 visits per 100,000 population) than for youth of other racial or ethnic groups (426 visits per 100,000 population). Overall, 9.2% of mental health visits and 18.3% of visits to psychiatrists included antipsychotic treatment. From 2000 to 2002, 92.3% of visits with prescription of an antipsychotic included a second-generation medication. Mental health visits with prescription of an antipsychotic included patients with diagnoses of disruptive behavior disorders (37.8%), mood disorders (31.8%), pervasive developmental disorders or mental retardation (17.3%), and psychotic disorders (14.2%).
Conclusions: There has been a sharp national increase in antipsychotic treatment among children and adolescents in office-based medical practice. Second-generation antipsychotics are being widely prescribed, and emerging empirical evidence provides a base of support that is limited to short-term safety and efficacy.