Symptom and Demographic Predictors of Psychotropic Medication use in ADHD and Autism

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ADHD symptoms, oppositional behavior, aggression, and irritability are common in children with ADHD-Combined and autism and are often targeted for treatment with medication. The goal of our study was to determine symptom, diagnostic, and demographic variables that influence the classes of psychotropic medications used to treat children with ADHD-Combined, ADHD-Inattentive, and autism. The sample comprised 1,407 children with autism and 1,036 children with ADHD (without autism) 2-17 years of age. Medications most often prescribed were ADHD medications (22% stimulant, 2% atomoxetine), 8% antipsychotic, 6% SSRI, and 5% alpha agonist. Children with ADHD-Combined and children with autism did not differ in the proportion prescribed a psychotropic and were more likely to be treated with medication than children with ADHD-Inattentive. ADHD severity ratings, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, irritability, and low IQ increased the likelihood of medication use and predicted medication classes. Older age was the most significant predictor of medication treatment. Race, sex, and parent occupation were not predictors. The findings were positive in that symptoms and not demographics determined medication treatment. Interestingly, the presence of learning problems was not a predictor of medication use, despite studies showing that ADHD medication can improve academic performance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-20
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and Mental Health
StatePublished - 2019


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