Ten years of antipsychotic prescribing to children: a Canadian population-based study

Can J Psychiatry. 2012 Jan;57(1):52-8. doi: 10.1177/070674371205700109.


Objective: To report the prescribing of antipsychotics to the youth population of the Canadian province of Manitoba during the course of a decade.

Methods: Use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents (aged 18 years or younger) was described using data collected from the administrative health databases of Manitoba Health and the Statistics Canada census between the fiscal years of 1999 and 2008.

Results: The prevalence of antipsychotic use in this segment of the population increased with the introduction of the second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) from 1.9 per 1000 in 1999 to 7.4 per 1000 in 2008. The male-to-female antipsychotic usage ratio increased from 1.9 to 2.7 as the male youth population represented the fastest-growing subgroup of antipsychotic users in the entire population of Manitoba. The total number of prescriptions also increased significantly despite the lack of approved indications in this population. Proportion of use remained equally split between high- and low-income users. More than 70% of antipsychotic prescriptions to children and adolescents were written by general practitioners. The most common diagnoses linked to antipsychotic use were attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorders. Use of antipsychotics in combination with methylphenidate increased from 13% to 43%.

Conclusion: Extensive off-label use of SGAs has been observed in the youth population of Manitoba for treatment of aggressive behaviours across a range of diagnoses. It is important to monitor antipsychotic prescribing to children as more reports of significant adverse events associated with antipsychotics become available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conduct Disorder / drug therapy
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Manitoba
  • Off-Label Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*


  • Antipsychotic Agents