Prevalence of Psychotropic Medication Use | Review of Drugs by Class
Reports of the prevalence of psychotropic medication use in
persons with intellectual disability consistently demonstrate that
upward of one-third of this population, both children and adults
and across residential settings, is receiving at least one psychotropic
drug. The general tone of these reports suggests alarm, for example,
that the population is "overmedicated" (Holden and Gitlesen 2004) and that drug use is imprecise and appears
not to be specific to diagnosis (Shireman et al. 2005; Singh et al. 1997). Psychostimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics,
and anticonvulsants comprise the vast majority of psychotropic medication prescriptions
in intellectual disability (Shireman et al. 2005).
With respect to the perceived lack of specificity with which psychotropic
medications are employed—for example, the off-label use
of medications in intellectual disability for the treatment of target
symptoms like aggression, hyperarousal, and behavioral disturbance
(Haw and Stubbs 2005)—the picture is complicated.
Moreover, risperidone, an atypical antipsychotic, has a U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved indication for the
treatment of irritability, aggression, and self-injurious behavior
in children with autism. As our knowledge of the underlying causes for
specific intellectual disability syndromes grows, we are likely
to see an even greater uncoupling of drug and mental disorder in
favor of drug and disability syndrome.