Nonpharmacological response in hospitalized children with conduct disorder.


OBJECTIVE There is a paucity of research regarding the effects of hospitalization and/or the response to placebo in children with conduct disorder who are hospitalized for chronic and severe aggression. However, many children with this problem are hospitalized and immediately begin pharmacotherapy. In this report, the effects of hospitalization and placebo administration were examined. METHOD Subjects were forty-four children (37 males, 7 females) with conduct disorder, aged 9.83 to 17.14 years, who were hospitalized for chronic and severe aggression. This was a 4-week double-blind and placebo-controlled study with a 2-week single-blind placebo lead-in period. During the 2-week placebo baseline period, aggression was measured on a 24-hour basis, using the Overt Aggression Scale. Only subjects meeting a specific aggression criterion were randomized to the treatment period of the trial. RESULTS Of the 44 subjects enrolled, 23 (52.3%) met the aggression criteria for entering the treatment period (baseline nonresponders), while 21 (47.7%) did not (baseline responders). Thus, almost half of the subjects, while taking no active medication, benefited from the inpatient milieu/structure and/or placebo. CONCLUSION This finding has important treatment and research implications. Medication to treat aggression should not be initiated immediately upon hospitalization because improvements associated with hospitalization may be attributed inaccurately to pharmacotherapy, resulting in unnecessarily medicating children. A placebo baseline period is essential to decrease the risk of a type II error in pharmacological research concerning aggression.


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