Time-trend studies on psychotropic drugs among children and adolescents are scarce, and most of them are outdated. The purpose of this study was to study prevalences of psychotropic drug use during 2004-2014 among Norwegians aged <18 years, overall and in psychotropic sub-groups.
Data were obtained from the Norwegian Prescription Database, which covers all dispensed prescription drugs in Norway from 2004 and onwards. Psychotropic drugs included: antipsychotics (ATC-group N05A), anxiolytics (N05B), hypnotic/sedatives (N05C), antidepressants (N06A), stimulants (N06BA), and alimemazine (R06AD01). Period (1-year) prevalence of use, overall and in subgroups of psychotropic drugs, was estimated by identifying individuals <18 years who had at least one psychotropic drug dispensed during each year.
Psychotropic drug use increased in 0-17 year olds over an 11-year period, in which the main contributing drugs were stimulants (boys overall; 15.0 to 20.8/1000, girls overall; 3.8 to 8.5/1000), hypnotic/sedative drugs in adolescents (boys overall; 4.2 to 10.8/1000, girls overall; 2.6 to 8.8/1000) and to some extent antidepressants among adolescent girls (girls overall from 3.1 to 4.0/1000). Psychotropic drug use was, however, reduced by half in the youngest children, attributed to reduction of alimemazine only (1-year olds: boys; from 36.6 to 10.2/1000, girls; 26.9 to 7.2/1000). A higher level of psychotropic drug use was observed among younger boys, but there is a shift towards girls using more psychotropic drugs than boys during adolescence for all psychotropic drugs except for stimulants.
Different trends in psychotropic drug use exist in age and gender subgroups. Psychotropic drug use has decreased among the youngest children, attributed to alimemazine, and increased in older children and adolescents, attributed mainly to stimulants and hypnotics/sedatives.