Anti-epileptic therapy and behaviour disturbances in children

Childs Nerv Syst. 1993 Aug;9(5):272-4. doi: 10.1007/BF00306271.


In order to evaluate the effects on behaviour of some anti-epileptic drugs, we studied 300 children treated with phenobarbital and other drugs; their age ranged from 3.1 months to 15.9 years. The children were divided into two groups: group A: 197 (116 male and 81 female) children, mean age +/- SD 5.3 +/- 2.8 years, treated with phenobarbital; group B: 103 (66 male and 37 female) children, mean age 6.4 +/- 3.1 years, treated with anti-epileptic drugs other than phenobarbital. In all patients hyperactivity, irritability, disturbances of sleep, and drowsiness were investigated. The parents of patients completed a questionnaire with seven items. In group A, 150 (76.1%) children showed one or more behaviour disturbances, while in Group B a smaller number of patients 32 (31%) had such disorders. There was a significant difference between the two groups (P < 0.0001). The most frequent disorder was hyperactivity. The results of this study suggest that anti-epileptic drugs, in particular phenobarbital, can cause behaviour disturbances.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / chemically induced
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenobarbital / adverse effects*
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use
  • Seizures, Febrile / drug therapy


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Phenobarbital