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Am J Public Health. 2015 Mar;105(3):524-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302258. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

Psychotropic drug use among preschool children in the Medicaid program from 36 states.

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Lauren D. Garfield, Derek S. Brown, Raven E. Ross, Ginger E. Nicol, and Ramesh Raghavan are with Washington University, St Louis, MO. Benjamin T. Allaire is with RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC.

Erratum in



We determined the prevalence of and indications for psychotropic medication among preschool children in Medicaid.


We obtained 2000 to 2003 Medicaid Analytic Extract data from 36 states. We followed children in 2 cohorts, born in 1999 and 2000, up to age 4 years. We used logistic regression to model odds of receiving medications for (1) attention-deficit disorder/attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, (2) depression or anxiety, and (3) psychotic illness or bipolar.


Overall, 1.19% of children received at least 1 psychotropic drug. Medications for attention-deficit disorder/attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment were most common (0.61% of all children), followed by depression or anxiety (0.59%) and psychotic illness or bipolar (0.24%). Among children, boys, those of other or unknown race compared with White, and those with other insurance compared with fee for service-only had higher odds of receiving a prescription (odds ratio [OR]=1.80 [95% confidence interval (CI)=1.74, 1.86], 1.75 [corrected] [1.66, 1.85], and 1.14 [1.01, 1.28], respectively), whereas Black and Hispanic children had lower odds (OR=0.51 [95% CI=0.48, 0.53] and 0.37 [0.34, 0.39], respectively).


Preschoolers are receiving psychotropic medications despite limited evidence supporting safety or efficacy. Future research should focus on implementing medication use practice parameters in infant and toddler clinics, and expanding psychosocial interventions for young children with behavioral problems.

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