A new study finds the use of powerful antipsychotic medications to control kids with ADHD has skyrocketed in recent years, though the use of these drugs are considered "off-label."
Antipsychotics are approved to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, other serious mental problems and irritability related to autism. But they don't have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for ADHD or other childhood behavior problems, and their use for this purpose is considered "off label."
"Only a small proportion of antipsychotic treatment of children (6 percent) and adolescents (13 percent) is for FDA-approved clinical indications," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
"These national trends focus attention on the substantial and growing extent to which children diagnosed with ADHD and other disruptive behavioral disorders are being treated with antipsychotic medications," said Olfson.
Many of the prescriptions for children were ordered by doctors who are not psychiatrists, the researchers found.
Although these drugs can deliver rapid improvement in children with severe conduct problems and aggressive behaviors, it is not clear whether they are helpful for the larger group of children with ADHD, he said. Nor has their long-term effect on children's developing brains been studied.