• Article

Examining psychotropic medication use among youth in the US by race/ethnicity and psychological impairment

Objective: Clinical practice guidelines underscore the need for careful evaluation of the risk-benefit ratio of psychotropic medications treating mental health disorders among youth. While it is well known that racial/ethnic disparities exist in psychotropic medication use, little is known about whether these differences are driven by over-prescribing among white youth, under-prescribing among minority youth, or both. To build evidence in this area, this study examined racial/ethnic differences in the prescription of psychotropic medications among youth with and without psychological impairment.

Methods: Secondary data on two-year medication use from the 2004-2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys were analyzed. We capitalized on two-year panel data, creating variables that allow for differential sequencing of psychological impairment and medication prescription (e. g., impairment in year 1 or year 2, and a psychotropic medication fill in year 2). Statistical differences were determined using unadjusted rate comparisons and logistic regression models, after adjustment for socio-contextual and health status characteristics.

Results: Compared to Black and Latino youthwith psychological impairment, White youthweremore likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications when impaired. Among youth never having psychological impairment, White youth were also more likely to be prescribed medications compared to their racial/ethnicminority counterparts.

Conclusions: Differences in rates of medication use among youth with and without impairment suggest poor medication targeting across racial/ethnic groups. These results, combined with recent psychotropic medication riskwarnings and concerns over increases in psychotropicmedication use among youth, suggest that a continued emphasis on accurate targeting of prescribing patterns is needed across racial/ethnic groups. (C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Le Cook, B., Carson, N. J., Kafali, E. N., Valentine, A., Rueda, J. D., Coe-Odess, S., & Busch, S. (2017). Examining psychotropic medication use among youth in the US by race/ethnicity and psychological impairment. General Hospital Psychiatry, 45, 32-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2016.12.004