An Examination of Psychotropic Medication Prescription Practices for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10882-008-9129-1

Cite this article as:
Singh, A.N. & Matson, J.L. J Dev Phys Disabil (2009) 21: 115. doi:10.1007/s10882-008-9129-1


An extensive literature exists on the use of psychotropic medications among individuals with intellectual disabilities, but little of it has focused on the reasons or the rationale for these prescriptions. We collected data on 87 individuals with intellectual disability who resided in a state residential facility and were on psychotropic medication. We categorized the clinical decision-making of the prescribing physicians in terms of: (a) target symptom approach, (b) primary illness approach, and (c) behavioral-pharmacologic hypothesis approach. Physicians typically used a primary illness approach in prescribing psychotropic medication for psychiatric disorders (i.e., for 75 of the 87 individuals). They used the target symptom approach with 9 individuals and no apparent rationale with the remaining 3. They did not use the behavioral-pharmacological approach with any of these individuals. We also report other findings related to psychotropic medication prescribing practices in this population. Our results suggest that physicians typically have a rationale for prescribing psychotropic medications to individuals with intellectual disabilities, although documentation is often not optimal.


Psychotropic medication Intellectual disabilities Rational for drug prescription 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Metropolitan State HospitalNorwalkUSA
  2. 2.Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA