New Study Questions Amount of Psychotropic Drugs Prescribed to Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities

New research from the United Kingdom suggests that psychotropic drugs were being over-prescribed to people with intellectual disabilities. The researchers looked at medical records of 33,016 adults with intellectual disabilities between 1999 and 2013. They concluded that the proportion of people with intellectual disabilities who have been treated with psychotropic drugs far exceeds the proportion with recorded mental illness. Antipsychotic drugs are often prescribed to people without recorded severe mental illness but who have a record of challenging behavior. Among study participants, antipsychotics were more common in those who were older and in individuals with intellectual disability and a diagnosis of autism or dementia.   The findings suggest that changes are needed in the prescribing of psychotropics for people with intellectual disabilities. Beyond questions about efficacy, inappropriately giving people antipsychotics puts them at risk for side effects like drwosiness and weight gain which can lead to other long-term health consequences like diabetes, according to lead author Rory Sheehan of the University of London.

Other drugs found to be frequently prescribed to the population of individuals with intellectual disabilities were medication for anxiety and depression.

Sources for the article:  “Questions Raised About Medication Used For Intellectual Disability” by Shaun Heasley, September 2, 2015, Disability Scoop; “Mental illness, challenging behaviour, and psychotropic drug prescribing in people with intellectual disability: UK population based cohort study” BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 01 September 2015).