Factors associated with use of medication for behavioral challenges in adults with intellectual and developmental disability

Steven R. Erickson, James Houseworth, Amy Esler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background/Aims: Persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities and who exhibit challenging behaviors are often prescribed medication to control behavior. Little is known about the environmental factors that may be associated with taking these medications. Methods and outcomes: This study examined the association between individual and intermediate or environmental factors and the documented use of medication for clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) who exhibit challenging behavior, using the 2014−15 National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey dataset. Results and conclusions: Individual-level variables associated with a higher likelihood of taking medication for persons with IDD exhibiting challenging behaviors included being of younger age, male gender, having moderate or severe intellectual disability, being ambulatory, communicating verbally, having a behavioral plan, requiring support for behavioral challenges, and having a history of mental illness. Environment-level variables included infrequently eating out and having less everyday choice. This study found that restrictions in opportunities to make choices in their life was associated with a greater likelihood of being on a medication for persons with IDD who exhibit challenging behavior. Living in group home settings also increased the likelihood of medication use. A limitation of the study is a lack of information on why medications were prescribed and whether they were intended to treat the challenging behavior. Implications: This work has important implications for health providers, as addressing malleable social factors may provide an avenue for reducing challenging behaviors without the need for medication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104182
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dorothy Hiersteiner and Eric Lam for their review and editing of the manuscript. Both are affiliated with National Core Indictors and the Human Services Research Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Challenging behavior
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Social determinants


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