There has been a dramatic increase in antipsychotic (AP) medication use in recent decades. There are a number of different types of AP medications currently being prescribed. Medical professionals can choose from first generation antipsychotics (FGA) and second generation antipsychotics (SGA), the latter of which are often prescribed for a variety of conditions not directly classified as psychosis.
Many of these SGAs are being taken by children. Because the side effects of SGAs, which include hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, can be chronic, having a clear picture of just who is most at risk and who is prescribing these SGAs is imperative. To get an accurate assessment of which medical professionals are prescribing SGAs and which children are taking them, Rebecca Ronsley, a medical student with the University of Toronto, recently conducted a study involving data from children under the age of 18 years old.
Based on a British Columbia database, Ronsley examined the rate of usage by children over a 15 year period and found that from 1996 through 2011, all AP use increased by almost four times in this segment of the population. When she looked at SGAs, she found that there was an 18-fold increase. This was most prevalent in boys between the ages of 13 to 18, followed closely by boys between 6 and 12, and then girls between 13 and 18 years old.
Conditions prompting AP usage included various psychological issues; however, neurotic conditions made up 11.1% of all AP prescriptions, hyperkinetic symptoms were 11.7%, and depression accounted for 12.8% of prescriptions. Further, Ronsley found that 38.6% of all prescriptions were written by psychiatrists, 34.3% by family doctors, and 15.6% by pediatricians.
Overall, the findings of this study show that young people are being prescribed APs in record numbers for a variety of reasons. Ronsley hopes that these results emphasize the importance of addressing the risks associated with APs, and specifically SGAs, for today’s children. She added, “Knowledge translation initiatives promoting evidence-based prescribing and monitoring practices related to SGA treatment need to target the three main prescriber groups and be tailored for age subgroups.”
Ronsley, Rebecca, B.Sc, et al. (2013). A population-based study of antipsychotic prescription trends in children and adolescents in British Columbia, from 1996 to 2011. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 58.6 (2013): 361-9. ProQuest. Web.
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