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The findings, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, show that fewer than half of the youth in the study who were prescribed antipsychotic drugs had first been treated with stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, the recommended medication treatments for ADHD.
“We didn’t know how widespread this practice was among young people starting ADHD treatment,” said senior author Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., Elizabeth K Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “There are substantial risks associated with the use of antipsychotic drugs in young people, including weight gain, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and even unexpected death.”
In recent years, pediatricians and parents have expressed concern that some physicians are prescribing antipsychotic drugs to children with ADHD who have significant aggressive or impulsive behavior.
Children and teens with ADHD who are treated with antipsychotics are often also diagnosed with depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or conduct disorders (CD), even though there is limited evidence that the drugs are effective for ODD or CD and no evidence they are effective in treating depression.