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Clinical predictors of antipsychotic use in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: a historical open cohort study using electronic health records

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649–658
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean child & adolescent psychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date15 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2016


King's Authors


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are more likely to receive antipsychotics than any other psychopharmacological medication, yet the psychiatric disorders and symptoms associated with treatment are unclear. We aimed to determine the predictors of antipsychotic use in children with ASD receiving psychiatric care. The sample consisted of 3482 children aged 3–17 with an ICD-10 diagnosis of ASD referred to mental health services between 2008 and 2013. Antipsychotic use outcome, comorbid diagnoses, and other clinical covariates, including challenging behaviours were extracted from anonymised patient records. Of the 3482 children (79 % male) with ASD, 348 (10 %) received antipsychotic medication. The fully adjusted model indicated that comorbid diagnoses including hyperkinetic (OR 1.44, 95 %CI 1.01–2.06), psychotic (5.71, 3.3–10.6), depressive (2.36, 1.37–4.09), obsessive–compulsive (2.31, 1.16–4.61) and tic disorders (2.76, 1.09–6.95) were associated with antipsychotic use. In addition, clinician-rated levels of aggression, self-injurious behaviours, reduced adaptive function, and overall parental concern for their child’s presenting symptoms were significant risk factors for later antipsychotic use. In ASD, a number of comorbid psychiatric disorders are independent predictors for antipsychotic treatment, even after adjustment for familial, socio-demographic and individual factors. As current trial evidence excludes children with comorbidity, more pragmatic randomised controlled trials with long-term drug monitoring are needed.

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