The Use of Psychotropic Medication in Iranian Children with Developmental Disabilities

Roy McConkey, S.A. Samadi, A. Mahmoodizadeh, Laurence Taggart

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The use of psychotropic medication in children is increasing worldwide. Children with developmental disabilities seem to be prescribed these medications at a higher rate compared to their non-disabled peers. Little is known about prescribing in non-Western, middle-income studies. In Iran, the file records of 1133 children, aged 2 to 17 years, assessed as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or an intellectual disability (ID) in Tehran City and Province from 2005 to 2019 were collated, and information from parental reports of medications was extracted. Upwards of 80% of children with ASD and 56% of those with ID were prescribed a psychotropic medication with around one quarter in each group taking two or more medications. The rates were higher among male children showing difficult-to-manage behaviors such as hyperactivity, but less so for children of fathers with higher levels of education. The lack of alternative management strategies may be a significant driver for the use of psychotropic medications in Iran and other Low and Middle Income countries, despite their known side effects, and their failure to address the developmental needs of the children. Rather, multi-disciplinary, behavioral, therapeutic, and educational interventions are required, but these are not available widely in Iran, although a start has been made.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4120
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number8
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 13 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We appreciate all those autism and intellectual disability centers and parents/caregivers who helped us with the data collection process and would like to express our thanks to the evaluation and testing department of the Iranian Special Education Organization (ISEO) for making the screening data available.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • psychotropic medications
  • children
  • ASD
  • intellectual disability
  • management
  • interventions
  • Iran
  • LMIC
  • Management
  • Intellectual disability
  • Interventions
  • Psychotropic medications
  • Children
  • Developmental Disabilities/drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs/therapeutic use
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder/drug therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Iran/epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability/drug therapy


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