Antipsychotics are predominantly being used for those with intellectual difficulty and/or autism rather than those with a psychotic diagnosis, figures from Wales suggest.
The cohort study, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, linked general practice and hospital records linked with education records for 1,488,936 children living in Wales between 1999 and 2015.
Analysis of the data showed that antipsychotics were more likely to be prescribed to children with intellectual difficulty and/or autism. Almost 3% of children with intellectual difficulty or autism had been prescribed antipsychotics and 75% of these children had autism. The rate of prescribing for children with intellectual disabilities/autism compares to a rate of 0.15% among those without intellectual disability.
Antipsychotic use was associated with a higher rate of respiratory illness for all. For those with intellectual difficulty/autism, there was a higher rate of injury and hospitalised depression.
"Treating behavioural problems in this way can lead to increased costs to the NHS in terms of higher epilepsy, respiratory infection, diabetes, depression and injury all requiring more visits to the GP and hospital. In addition, treating behavioural problems in this way can have long term health implications for the individual and for those who care for them," said lead author, Professor Sinead Brophy from Swansea University Medical School.