Young people with autism and intellectual disability account for a burgeoning number of those prescribed antipsychotics, new research suggests.

Nearly one out of every 10 youths given antipsychotics is diagnosed with one of the developmental disabilities, according to findings published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, one in six with autism or intellectual disability has taken the drugs, the study found.

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The findings are based on an analysis of 39 existing studies looking at over 350,000 young people.

Currently, some antipsychotics are approved for treating symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder like irritability and aggression, but the medications are not designed to address the core features behind either intellectual disability or ASD.

“Although the increased prescribing of antipsychotics in youth with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability cannot be judged as appropriate or inappropriate based on database studies, side effects of antipsychotics can be quite problematic, especially in children and adolescents,” said Christoph Correll of Hofstra University who led the research.

“Therefore, clinicians should perform very careful risk benefit evaluation before and after starting youth with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability on an antipsychotic,” he said.

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