Psychotropic medication use among adolescents: United States, 2005-2010

NCHS Data Brief. 2013 Dec;(135):1-8.


Approximately 6.0% of U.S. adolescents aged 12-19 reported psychotropic drug use in the past month. The use of antidepressants (3.2%) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) drugs (3.2%) was highest, followed by antipsychotics (1.0%); anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics (0.5%); and antimanics (0.2%). Males (4.2%) were more likely than females (2.2%) to use ADHD drugs. Females (4.5%) were more likely than males (2.0%) to use antidepressants. Psychotropic drug use was higher among non-Hispanic white (8.2%) adolescents than non-Hispanic black (3.1%) and Mexican-American (2.9%) adolescents. About one-half of U.S. adolescents using psychotropic drugs in the past month had seen a mental health professional in the past year (53.3%). Prior studies have shown an increase in psychotropic medication use among adolescents. However, most studies were based on clinical samples or high-risk populations. This report provides the estimate of any psychotropic medication use in the past month among U.S. noninstitutionalized adolescents aged 12-19 during 2005-2010, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Psychotropic medication is a type of drug used to treat clinical psychiatric symptoms or mental disorders. Specific psychotropic drug types addressed are antidepressants; medications for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD); anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics (ASH); antimanics; and antipsychotics. Adolescents using psychotropic drugs are further examined by sex, race and Hispanic origin, and mental health professional consultation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adolescent Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Psychotropic Drugs / classification
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs