Children and adolescents with psychiatric disorder are sometimes given medication for emotional or behaviour problems. Such treatment is used less frequently than in adult psychiatry so that much less is known about child and adolescent psychopharmacology. This is one reason why some physicians and parents may feel reluctant to use medication for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms in children. However, when a disorder or constellation of symptoms has been properly diagnosed, when it is disabling, and when there is sufficient evidence that treatment is likely to be effective and safe, then it would be unethical to withhold it.

The drugs used, and for which there is some systematic evidence for children and adolescents, can be broadly divided into four groups:

1. central stimulants (mainly for attention disorders);

2. neuroleptics (mainly for psychotic disorders and tic syndromes);

3. serotonergic drugs, including tricyclic antidepressants (mainly for obsessive-compulsive disorders);

4. other drugs.

After some general guidelines for drug treatment in children and adolescents have been presented, these four groups of medications will be discussed in more detail. Further information about the use of medication for childhood psychiatric disorders can be found in Chapter 9.2.2,§I,.9:2.3, and Ch§pter 9.2..5.

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