A new study suggests that medications often prescribed to individuals with developmental disabilities are associated with a significantly heightened risk for diabetes.

Researchers found that young people taking atypical antipsychotics like Risperdal, Seroquel, Abilify and Zyprexa were three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within the first year of using the drugs as compared to those taking other psychiatric medications.

The finding, published this month in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is based on a review of medical records from 1996 through 2007¬†for individuals ages 6 to 24 enrolled in Tennessee’s Medicaid program. Nearly 29,000 of those studied were prescribed antipsychotics while the remaining 14,400 were taking other types of psychiatric drugs.

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Beyond the threefold increase observed in the first year of taking antipsychotics, the study found that the risk for diabetes increased with cumulative dosages and persisted for at least a year after stopping the medications.

Doctors should carefully consider alternatives to antipsychotic medications and ensure that they are keeping tabs on kids who do take the drugs, said Wayne Ray, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University and senior author of the study.

“Children should be monitored carefully for metabolic effects predisposing them to diabetes, and use of the drug should be at the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time,” he said.