Many children and teens who take antipsychotic drugs do not have a mental disorder diagnosis, according to a new study.
Use of the drugs has been increasing among teens, the researchers found.
About 1.19 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 used antipsychotic drugs in 2010, compared with 1.1 percent in 2006.
The study found many children and teens treated with antipsychotics had no outpatient or inpatient claim that indicated they had a mental disorder diagnosis: 60 percent of those ages 1 to 6; 56.7 percent of those ages 7 to 12; 62 percent of those 13 to 18; and 67.1 percent of those 19 to 24.
The results are published in JAMA Psychiatry.
"There's a general consensus that great caution should be exercised with antipsychotic drugs," said lead author Mark Olfson of Columbia University Medical Center. "This raises concerns about whether the right caution is taken."
He noted there has been a slight decrease in antipsychotic drug use among children ages 1 to 12, which may be the result of increased concerns about safety. Despite the dip, the majority of this age group has been using the drugs without a diagnosis of mental illness, Olfson said.
He added that antipsychotic drugs are being used in many cases to treat unapproved conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
These drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat conditions such as bipolar mania, schizophrenia and irritability associated with autism. The study found more than half of young patients with mental health diagnoses who take antipsychotic drugs had either ADHD or depression, according to The Washington Post.
Less than one-quarter had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
According to Olfson, antipsychotic drugs are often prescribed to children with unapproved conditions because they provide fast relief for children whose behaviors are hard to manage.