Using antipsychotics for behavioral problems in children

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2018 Sep;19(13):1475-1488. doi: 10.1080/14656566.2018.1509069. Epub 2018 Aug 13.


Introduction: Antipsychotic use in children has increased over the past two decades. Randomized controlled trials have evaluated the efficacy of antipsychotics in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and disruptive behavior disorders (DBD).

Areas covered: The authors systematically analyze the results of randomized controlled trials of second and third generation antipsychotics for irritability in ASD and aggressive and disruptive behavior in DBD with or without low IQ and ADHD. The aim of the review is to assist healthcare professionals to optimize therapy in this population.

Expert opinion: There is evidence to support the short-term efficacy of risperidone and aripiprazole for irritability in ASD, and short-term efficacy of risperidone for aggressive and disruptive behavior in DBD, although the benefits are closely balanced with an increased risk of metabolic, hormonal and extrapyramidal adverse effects. The use of antipsychotics in children with these disorders should be reserved for those refractory to first and second-line therapies, and in whom there is a persistent and serious risk of harm to self or others. Antipsychotics should be considered a short-term strategy while psychosocial and behavioral therapies are continuously employed.

Keywords: Atypical antipsychotics; adolescents; aggression; aripiprazole; autism spectrum disorder; children; conduct disorder; disruptive behavior disorders; irritability; lurasidone; oppositional defiant disorder; quetiapine; risperidone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Aripiprazole / therapeutic use
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood / drug effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Aripiprazole
  • Risperidone