Background: Psychotropic medications have become an integral component in the treatment of children with mental illnesses.
Methods: Selective reviews of the empirical evidence for the efficacy of psychotropic medications and studies of their use patterns were reviewed.
Results: Very strong efficacy for at least the short-term benefits and safety of stimulant medications was found and some good efficacy and safety evidence for the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders with seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) was also found. Efficacy for tricyclic antidepressants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was found but the presence of significant side effects makes them less the drugs of choice. Other medications are presented but with less rigorous evidence. Studies of use found that stimulant medications are extensively prescribed in the US by both psychiatrists and primary care physicians. SSRI are also prescribed extensively but not to the extent of stimulants and are more frequently prescribed by psychiatrists.
Conclusions: There is now good evidence for the efficacy of some psychotropic agents and their use is an integral component in the management of childhood mental illnesses.