Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a considerable use of psychotropics. Leveraging nationwide registry data, we aimed to describe the use of psychotropics among children and adolescents with ASD in Denmark. Use of melatonin and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication increased from 2010 to 2017, while there were limited changes in use of antidepressants and antipsychotics. Thirty percent of the identified children used psychotropics in 2017 most commonly ADHD medication (17%) and melatonin (13%). Methylphenidate, sertraline and risperidone were most often prescribed. Most children filled more than one prescription and, across drug classes, at least 38% received treatment two years after treatment initiation. Use of psychotropics followed psychiatric comorbidities. Comorbidities did not affect age at treatment initiation. Use of psychotropics varied according to age and sex with limited use in the youngest children. In summary, psychotropic drug use has increased in children with ASD mainly due to an increase in the use of ADHD medication and melatonin. In accordance with previous studies, use seems to follow comorbidities. The long treatment duration underlines the need to investigate long-term effects of psychotropic drug use in children with ASD.
Keywords: Denmark; adolescent; autism spectrum disorder; central nervous system stimulants; child; drug utilization; prevalence; psychotropic drugs.