Antipsychotic Use Trends in Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis

Su Young Park, Chiara Cervesi, Britta Galling, Silvia Molteni, Frozan Walyzada, Stephanie H. Ameis, Tobias Gerhard, Mark Olfson, Christoph U. Correll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective Although irritability and aggression are relevant treatment targets in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and intellectual disability (ID) that may prompt antipsychotic use, antipsychotic prescribing patterns in such youth have not been systematically reviewed. Method We systematically searched PubMed/MEDLINE/PsycInfo until March 2015 for studies reporting data on the frequency of youth diagnosed with ASDs and/or ID among antipsychotic-treated youth, as well as antipsychotic use in youth with ASD/ID, conducting a meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of potential moderators, including publication year, study time point, country, setting, sample size, age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Results A total of 39 studies were meta-analyzed (n = 365,449, age = 11.4 ± 6.2 years, males = 70.0% ± 10.0%). Among 27 studies (n = 273,139, age = 11.9 ± 8.0 years, males = 67.0% ± 12.9%) reporting on antipsychotic-treated youth, 9.5% (95% CI = 7.8%−11.5%) were diagnosed with ASD/ID. In 20 studies (n = 209,756) reporting data separately for ASD, 7.9% (95% CI = 6.2%−9.9%) had an ASD diagnosis. In 5 longitudinal studies, the proportion of antipsychotic-treated youth with ASD did not change significantly from 1996 to 2011 (6.7% to 5.8%, odds ratio = 0.9, 95% CI = 0.8−1.0, p =.17). However, later study time point moderated greater ASD/ID proportions (β = 0.12, p < .00001). In 13 studies (n = 96,688, age = 9.8 ± 1.2 years, males = 78.6% ± 2.0%) reporting on antipsychotic use in ASD samples, 17.5% (95% CI = 13.7%−22.1%) received antipsychotics. Again, later study time point moderated higher antipsychotic use among patients with ASD (β = 0.10, p = .004). Conclusion Almost 1 in 10 antipsychotic-treated youth were diagnosed with ASD and/or ID, and 1 in 6 youth with ASD received antipsychotics. Both proportions increased in later years; however, clinical reasons and outcomes of antipsychotic use in ASD/ID require further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-468.e4
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • adolescent
  • antipsychotic
  • autism
  • child
  • intellectual disability


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