Antipsychotics use in children and adolescents: An on-going challenge in clinical practice

J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jul;28(7):615-23. doi: 10.1177/0269881114533599. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Antipsychotic medications (APs) are a well-established pharmacological treatment in adults with serious mental health problems. However, many adult mental health disorders have their origins and onset in childhood or adolescence. The understanding that neuropsychiatric conditions of childhood are in part biologically determined, led to an increase in the number of clinical trials supporting evidence on the efficacy of antipsychotic agents as first-line treatment for childhood psychotic disorders and therapeutic augmentation of nonpsychotic conditions. In recent years the use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents for neurodevelopmental, behavioural and psychiatric disorders has significantly increased while the age of prescription has decreased. These trends have not been matched by advances in the understanding of APs' safety profile in this group of patients. It is therefore crucial that current and future practice is informed by up-to-date synthesis of the evidence and clinical guidelines about the use and monitoring of these treatments in paediatric populations, since the effectiveness of early therapeutic interventions in children can affect positively the long-term outcome.

Keywords: Antipsychotic medication; adolescents; adverse effects; autism; bipolar; children; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / drug effects*
  • Age of Onset
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents