(HealthDay News) – Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to use psychotropic medication if they also have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study published in the Dec. 23 issue of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

Thomas W. Frazier, PhD, from the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues examined data on psychotropic medication use in a nationally representative sample of adolescents, aged 13–17 years, in special education.

The researchers found that the rate of psychotropic medication use was 58.2% in adolescents with both ASD and ADHD, 49% in adolescents with ADHD only, and 34.3% in adolescents with ASD only. Youths with ASD, with or without ADHD, used medications from a variety of medication classes, whereas stimulants were predominantly used among those with ADHD only. African-American adolescents were significantly less likely than white adolescents to receive medications if they had ASD only or ASD and ADHD, but race had no impact on medication use in the ADHD-only group.

“Clearer practice parameters for ADHD have likely contributed to more consistency in treatment, whereas treatment for ASD reflects a trial and error approach based on associated symptom patterns,” Frazier and colleagues conclude. “Additional studies examining the treatment of core and associated ASD symptoms are needed to guide pharmacologic treatment of these youths.”

Frazier disclosed financial ties to Shire Development and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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