Predictors of safety-related enquiries about psychotropic medication in young people and families accessing a medicines information service

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2009 Apr;19(2):179-85. doi: 10.1089/cap.2008.075.


Background: Many consumers express concerns about the safety of psychotropic medication for young people. Despite the increased use of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents, few studies have examined information needs of this group and predictors of safety-related concerns.

Methods: This study was conducted within a national, consumer-based medicines information service. Between September, 2002, and December, 2005, all calls relating to use of psychotropic medications in children and adolescents were identified and reviewed. Information extracted included call characteristics, reason for calling, prior information, and medication details. Calls related to safety were compared to calls about non-safety-related issues.

Results: A total of 286 calls related to psychotropic medication in young people were reviewed. The majority of callers were adults calling on behalf of either a child (73.4%) or client (12.9%). Stimulants were the most common medication enquired about (44.0% of calls), followed by antidepressants (40.2%), and antipsychotics (18.9%). More than half of all calls were for medicines not registered for pediatric use. Almost two thirds of calls related to safety issues (61.9%; 177/286). Safety-related calls were not related to specific medication groups (e.g., stimulants or antidepressants). Significant and independent predictors of safety-related concerns were medication not registered for pediatric use (p < 0.05), receipt of lay information (p < 0.05), concomitant enquiry about nonpsychotropic medication (p < 0.01), and a potential medication problem (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Safety is one of the key areas of concern in young people and families accessing a medicines information service with questions about psychotropic medication. Off-label use of medication was common and may contribute to safety concerns. Provision of information that is tailored for young people has the potential to improve outcomes in this group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Consumer Health Information*
  • Drug Information Services*
  • Drug Labeling
  • Female
  • Hotlines*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Psychotropic Drugs