Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are prescribed antipsychotic medication at a much higher rate than the average population, suggests a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Risperdal is one of the most commonly used antipsychotics to treat ADHD, but it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this indication. The drug is approved to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and irritability with autism in both adults and children. Doctors have the discretion to prescribe medications for uses for which they are not approved, and many are prescribing antipsychotics like Risperdal for the off-label treatment of ADHD, according to the study.
While the drug may provide benefits to children, it also carries side effects that can be both emotionally and physically scarring. Risperdal, for example, can increase levels of prolactin in the body. Prolactin is the hormone that triggers breast growth and lactation in pregnant women. It can have the same effect when prolactin levels spike in adolescent boys, causing them to grow disfiguring female-like breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia.
Researchers conducting the study had two goals – to find out how common ADHD diagnoses are in Ontario along with the characteristics of the disorder, and to find out what common factors were present when a patient was prescribed antipsychotic medications as a treatment for the condition.
The data showed that 5.4 percent of the 10,000 medical records that were randomly selected from more than 250,000 patients in Ontario had a diagnosis of ADHD, which is in step with previous studies on the prevalence of ADHD in both Canada and the U.S. The data also revealed that 11.9 percent of ADHD patients were prescribed an antipsychotic. This was also consistent with previous studies in Canada and the U.S., researchers noted.
“Beyond drug misuse and serious adverse effects, there is considerable variability in how ADHD is treated, including the use of off-label, non stimulant medication, such as antipsychotics,” the researchers concluded.
Source: Brock Press