Get access

Psychotropic drug use among people with intellectual disability before and after deinstitutionalization


Jim Aa. Nøttestad, St Olavs Hospital, Department for Forensic Psychiatry, Brøset, P.O. Box 1083, Lade, N-744U, Norway (e-mail: JIAA-N@online.NO)


Background  The use of psychotropic medication among people with intellectual disability (ID) is widespread, and they are one of the most medicated groups in society. A substantial number of individuals with ID receive psychotropic medications that may be inappropriate for their diagnosis. One of the main reasons for the use of psychotropic medication is challenging behaviours. Almost all prevalence studies show higher prevalence rates of psychotropic medication in institutions compared with community living. Studies on deinstitutionalization and the use of psychotropic medication are few and inconclusive.

Method  The present study is a prospective cohort study without control group. It examines the use of psychotropic medication among 109 subjects aged between 16 and 65 years before (1987) and after (1995) deinstitutionalization. Psychotropic drug dosages were transformed to percentage of defined daily dosage.

Results  We found no major changes in the use of neuroleptics after deinstitutionalization neither in frequency nor in dosages, and the trend seemed indiscriminate in relation to diagnosis. The people with schizophrenia or an anxiety disorder did not receive proper drug treatment, nor did they before deinstitutionalization.

Conclusions  The main predictor variable for neuroleptic dosage both before and after deinstitutionalization was challenging behaviour. The reason for this may be the difficulties in determining the extent to which presenting behaviours are the result of a psychiatric disorder or a behaviour disorder, the lack of knowledge among the caretakers and the ensuing referral practice, the lack of knowledge among the general practitioners, and the lack of access to specialized health services.