Psychotropic medication profile in a community youth mental health service in Australia

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Journal Article
Children and Youth Services Review, 2018, 90 pp. 8 - 14
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© 2018 Aim: There has been a rise in the use of psychotropic medication in young people, despite limited risk-benefit profile of psychotropic medication for this population. Given their side effect profile, the use of psychotropic medications should occur with caution. This study investigated psychotropic prescribing pattern in a public youth community mental health service and gives an estimate of general level of psychotropic medication use in this setting. Methods: A retrospective file review was undertaken of all young people aged 12–17 who received care from the service in 2016 (N = 189) for a range of mental health problems, excluding psychosis. Files were reviewed for demographical information (age, gender), diagnosis/presenting issues, prescribed medications, indications of medications, and prescriber type (e.g. psychiatrist, general practitioners (GPs), paediatrician). The data was analysed descriptively. Results: Over 60% (60.8%, n = 115) of young people were prescribed psychotropic medications. Over half of the entire sample were on antidepressants (51.32%, n = 97), nearly a quarter (n = 46, 24%) on antipsychotics, 6% on ADHD medications (6.35%, n = 12), and a fifth (19.58%, n = 37) on polypharmacy. Antidepressants and antipsychotics were mostly used off-label, prescribed by public psychiatric staff. Quetiapine was the most prescribed antipsychotic predominantly for insomnia. Fluoxetine and fluvoxamine were the most prescribed antidepressants predominantly for anxiety disorders. Girls are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications than boys, specifically antipsychotic medication. Conclusions: A high proportion of young people were prescribed psychotropic medication, including antipsychotic medication, mostly for the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders. There is little evidence around how psychotropic medication is used in youth mental health settings, and this study contributes to this gap.
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