U.S. physicians say a steadily increasing number of people younger than age 20 received prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs from 1993-2002.

Antipsychotics are medications used to treat such mental disorders as schizophrenia and mania.

Dr. Mark Olfson and colleagues at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City said most prescriptions given to children and adolescents are for second-generation antipsychotics, which are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pediatric patients.

The researchers analyzed data from a national survey of office-based physicians conducted yearly by federal researchers.

They found the number of outpatient healthcare visits — during which patients between the ages of 0 and 20 years received antipsychotic medications — increased six-fold from 1993-2002, from a yearly average of 201,000 in 1993-95 to 1,224,000 in 2002.

For every 100,000 individuals younger than age 21 in the United States, 274.7 such office visits took place each year from 1993-95, compared with 1,341 each year from 2000-02.

The research is detailed in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.