Medication Pathway

Section C Medication has been suggested


Psychotropic medication may be prescribed for a person with a learning disability, autism or both following a diagnosis of a mental health need or because there are concerns about behaviour described as challenging. People with a learning disability, autism or both may also take medication for physical health problems; this guide does not cover medication for physical health needs.

If your relative has a mental health need, then psychotropic medication may be a typical treatment. This should always be used alongside other interventions and factors that might affect your relative’s mental health should be explored. An example would be looking at ways of improving their quality of life.

There are some common situations or ‘trigger points’ where it is more likely that a person with a learning disability, autism or both will be prescribed psychotropic medication for challenging behaviour. These include:

  • Personal or family crisis
  • Placement breakdown
  • Starting school
  • Puberty/adolescence
  • Poor or no planned transition from child to adult services
  • Change of where someone lives, such as leaving the family home.

While it is common for psychotropic medication to be suggested during these situations, they may not be good reasons to prescribe without diagnosis of a mental health problem. When a stressful event such as a family crisis leads to an increase in challenging behaviour, there are a number of ways someone can be supported. While medication may be one of these ways, it should not be the only option. See the ‘Have you tried…’ suggestions for some alternative methods of support that could be offered during trigger points.