December 3, 2021

Antipsychotic drugs given to children with disabilities

Research in the British Medical Journal has revealed that people with intellectual disabilities are routinely being given antipsychotic drugs to treat disruptive behaviour.

Research in the British Medical Journal has revealed that people with intellectual disabilities are routinely being given antipsychotic drugs to treat disruptive behaviour. This is particularly concerning as the drugs can have serious side-effects, and have not been clinically proven to regulate behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities. 

The study, produced by researchers at Imperial College London,  analysed data from more than 33,000 people with a learning disability between 1999 and 2013. The patients they studied included people suffering from Down syndrome, dementia, autism and epilepsy. Many had difficulties with learning, communication, daily living and information and social skills.

The researchers found that 9,135 had been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, of whom 71% had no record of severe mental illness. The authors concluded that people with a record of challenging behaviour were more than twice as likely to receive anti-psychotics as those without such a history.

Lead author Rory Sheehan, an academic clinical fellow in the UCL division of psychiatry, said the findings were very worrying: “these drugs may cause adverse side-effects, and they should not be routinely used outside situations in which they have proven benefit.”

Commenting on the study, Dan Scorer of the disability charity Mencap told the Daily Mail: “Sadly the report findings are not a surprise as they confirm what we have heard from families time and time again about loved ones being given high levels of anti-psychotic or anti-depressant medication, often for years… In many cases families report serious side effects and no evidence that the medication is helping the individual.”

Evidence suggests that the drugs are not effective at treating aggressive and disruptive behaviour, says psychiatrist Peter Tyrer of Imperial College London. A 2008 study of the two most commonly used psychotropic drugs found that these interventions were no better at reducing behavioural problems than a placebo

New UK study shows widespread use of anti psychotic drugs on children with disabilities
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
disabilities
informed consent
mental illness