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    Primary care psychopharmacology

    Evidence-based guidance is available to help primary care practitioners provide psychopharmacologic treatment for behavioral disorders, said Rebecca Baum, MD, FAAP. This information formed the basis of her talk "Primary care psychopharmacology for common behavioral disorders" at the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Conference and Exhibition.

    Baum has first-hand knowledge of the challenges that primary care practitioners may face when trying to address mental-health concerns. "Before my fellowship training in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, I practiced pediatrics in a small town for several years." She said that primary care practitioners often feel unprepared for the high frequency of psychosocial concerns that they face in practice. Experts estimate that 20% to 30% of outpatient pediatric visits involve some type of psychosocial issue.

    More: Be vigilant in screening for psychological risk factors

    Depending on the community, practitioners may also experience a limited supply of local mental health providers. Residency programs are required to offer 1 month of developmental-behavioral pediatric care over the course of training, which may not be enough time to gain a comfort level or expertise. So, community practitioners may find themselves doing things that they were not necessarily trained to do.

    Baum added, "We know that primary care practitioners are working very hard to meet their patients' needs," but in some cases, lack of training and expertise may translate into underprescribing or overprescribing medications with which they are not comfortable.

    The good news for practitioners is that evidence-based guidance does exist to help them manage common mental health problems that they face in practice, namely, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.1-4

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published the Pediatric Psychopharmacology for Primary Care textbook.5 Additionally, the AAP has created practitioner toolkits, available for purchase, for mental health concerns and ADHD.

    Practitioners can also find resources for families from the AAP at www.healthychildren.org and from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at bit.ly/AACAP-Facts-for-Families.



    1. Subcommittee on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management; Wolraich M, Brown L, Brown RT, et al. ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):1007-1022.

    2. Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health and Task Force on Mental Health. The future of pediatrics: mental health competencies for pediatric primary care. Pediatrics. 2009;124(1):410-421.

    3. Zuckerbrot RA, Cheung AH, Jensen PS, Stein RE, Laraque D; GLAD-PC Steering Group. Guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care (GLAD-PC): I. Identification, assessment, and initial management. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):e1299-e1312.

    4. Cheung AH, Zuckerbrot RA, Jensen PS, Ghalib K, Laraque D, Stein RE; GLAD-PC Steering Group. Guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care (GLAD-PC): II. Treatment and ongoing management. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):e1313-e1326. Erratum in: Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):227.

    5. Riddle MA, ed. Pediatric Psychopharmacology for Primary Care. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2016.

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    John Jesitus
    John Jesitus is a medical writer based in Westminster, CO.


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