Follow me on

Antipsychotic Medications and Weight Gain in Children and Adolescents

I have previously blogged about the unfortunate effect of atypical antipsychotics on body weight and on the possible strategies that may be effective in dealing with this important complication of psychiatric treatment.

As the number of children and adolescents diagnosed with and treated for psychiatric disorders continues to increase, the use of these medications in this population is of growing concern.

The extent to which atypical antipsychotic medications promote weight gain and increase cardiometabolic risk in children and adolescents was recently addressed by Christoph Correll and colleagues from the Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, NY, in a paper published in JAMA.

The researchers analysed data from a nonrandomized Second-Generation Antipsychotic Treatment Indications, Effectiveness and Tolerability in Youth (SATIETY) cohort study, conducted between December 2001 and September 2007.

Of 505 youth aged 4 to 19 years with 1 week or less of antipsychotic medication exposure, 338 were enrolled (66.9%) of which 272 had at least 1 postbaseline assessment (80.5%), and 205 patients who completed the study (60.7%). Patients were treated for mood spectrum (48%), schizophrenia spectrum (30%), or disruptive or aggressive behavior (22%) disorders.

Treatment with aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine, or risperidone for 12 weeks resulted in weight gain ranging between 8.5 kg with olanzapine (n = 45) and 4.4 kg with aripiprazole (n = 41). A small control group (that refused or were non-adherent with treatment) had no weight gain during the follow up period.

Olanzapine, quetiapine and risperidone adversely effected plasma lipids, while there were no changes in these parameters with aripiprazole or in the untreated controls.

This study not only highlights the clinically important effect of these antipsychotic compounds on body weight but also suggests that there may be important differences in the magnitude of these effects with different medications.

While these adverse effects should certainly not deter from the use of these compounds where absolutely indicated (given the considerable morbidity associated with severe psychiatric disorders), avoidance of weight gain remains an important challenge that needs to be addressed.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. The literature around weight gain after antipsychotic initiation in adults often suggests the rate of weight gain is most rapid in the first weeks and then slows. Is this the same in the adolescent population on average?

    Thank you

    Post a Reply
  2. “weight gain is most rapid in the first weeks and then slows”

    I am no expert in pediatric obesity, but my guess is that the time course of the weight gain may be similar. Both the rate and magnitude of weight gain will likely depend on the underlying biological factors: e.g. hedonic vs. homeostatic hyperphagia and other underlying psychosocial factors.

    The reason weight gain generally slows down (in kids and adults) is that with increasing weight, energy requirements also increase, therefore an ever increasing amount of energy intake is required to maintain the rate of weight gain.


    Post a Reply
  3. In my experience one of the most deterring effect of most of the anti-psychotics has been weight gain, and in addition the drug user is oblivious with the effect on his or her body weight. So, how one can expect him or her to be motivated or inclined to take remediable measures to reduce it. These patients undergo a vicious cycle of increasing body weight with new onset of diabetes or worsening of diabetes with further addition of weight due to polyphagia of uncontrolled diabetes. It would be rather interesting to study these individuals with regard to potential degree of putting on wt. and its cost -affect on managing the metabolic consequence and its complications both short-term and long-term basis.
    This phenomenon of pushing a person with one disease into another co-morbidity based on drugs used should be one of the criteria considered by the FDA before approving the drug. The FDA should take the same stance as they take for the new diabetic drug as regard to its cardiovascular implications before they are approved. If such stringent steps are not taken in particular with regards to onset of metabolic disorder over the prevailing epidemic then days are not far when more than two -third of the health expenses would be devoured by these metabolic disorder (like Obesity) and its implication on health globally.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *