Changing patterns of psychotropic medications prescribed by child psychiatrists in the 1990s

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The active (1994) and closed (1988 to 1992) outpatient records of youths seen in four separate community mental health centers (CMHC) in Baltimore County, Maryland were reviewed in mid-1994 to document recent changes in the medication-prescribing practices of local child psychiatrists. Inpatient summaries of previously hospitalized CMHC youths were also reviewed to supplement the outpatient medication assessment with hospital data. This regional survey of medication treatments in child psychiatry revealed that, during the half decade before 1994, there was an increase in overall psychotropic medication treatment, multiple concurrent medication treatments (polypharmacy), and antidepressant treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs). Inpatient youths were consistently prescribed more psychotropic medications and diagnosed more frequently with major depressive disorder than outpatients. Medications typically used to first treat mood disorders became the predominant medication prescribed for both outpatients and inpatients by child psychiatrists in 1994, leading to a proportional decline in prescribed stimulant treatment. The shift from tricyclic antidepressants to SRI antidepressants in the 1990s by child psychiatrists matches the same recent practice shift by adult psychiatrists. Likewise, the increased prescription of drugs to treat mood disorders and the increased rate of polypharmacy notable of late among child psychiatrists now also mirrors adult psychiatry practice. Wide geographic variations in neuroleptic and antidepressant medication patterns were noted, even among facilities in the same metropolitan region. After psychiatric hospitalization, most youths who continued treatment at a CMHC outpatient clinic discontinued their inpatient medications within 3 months; the sole exception were children who had been placed on psychostimulants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-274
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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