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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Mar;191(1):127-40. Epub 2006 Sep 16.

Systematic review of pharmacotherapy of disruptive behavior disorders in children and adolescents.

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  • 1MRC Anxiety and Stress Disorders Research Unit, Psychiatry Department, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa.



Pharmacotherapy is frequently considered in the treatment of disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) in children and adolescents. There are, however, no systematic reviews of this literature.


The aim of this work is to determine whether medication is effective in treating pediatric disruptive behavior disorders and related problems of impulse control, as well as to examine differences in the treatment response and tolerability of different medication classes and agents.


Randomized controlled trials of the pharmacotherapy of DBDs in children and adolescents were reviewed, and a meta-analysis of 14 trials (823 participants) was conducted.


There is some evidence of the effectiveness of medication in treating DBDs, with positive outcomes for lithium and risperidone in particular. Pharmacotherapy also demonstrated some efficacy in reducing symptoms of aggression. Medication was relatively well-tolerated, as indicated by equivalent dropout rates in medication and comparison groups.


There are relatively few controlled trials of the pharmacotherapy of disruptive behavior disorders or other impulse control disorders, despite the importance of research in this area. Given the potential adverse effects of agents such as lithium and risperidone, a careful risk-benefit analysis is needed for each patient.

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