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CNS Drugs. 2006;20(7):549-65.

Pharmacological aspects of the treatment of conduct disorder in children and adolescents.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas 77030-3497, USA.


In recent years, the rates of psychosocial disorders in children and adolescents have increased, with behavioural manifestations of conduct disorder being one of the most common reasons for referrals to community psychiatrists. Childhood conduct problems are associated with a variety of psychiatric disorders in adult life that extend beyond antisocial behaviour. An increased awareness of the costs of conduct disorder to individuals, families and society has led to advancements in the pharmacological and nonpharmacological therapeutic modalities for this disorder. Despite this, patients with conduct disorder are difficult to treat as the patterns of maladaptive behaviours they exhibit are diverse and can vary as a function of age and sex. A multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of conduct disorder, which includes behavioural parent training, interpersonal skills training, family therapy and the use of psychotropic agents targeted at a particular cluster of symptoms, can increase the overall effectiveness of each of the applied interventions. Aggression, hyperactivity, impulsivity and mood symptoms are the most sensitive proximal targets. Evidence suggests that antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilisers, antiepileptic drugs, stimulants and adrenergic drugs can be well tolerated and effective therapeutic options for individuals with conduct disorder and comorbid psychiatric conditions. However, the most successful therapeutic outcomes are likely to be achieved by combining the current advances in psychopharmacology with behavioural and psychosocial interventions, aimed at modifying the excessive patterns of maladaptive behaviours observed in conduct disorder.

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