To conduct a systematic review of the comparative efficacy of various psychotropic medications for the treatment of disruptive behavior (DBs) in youths. To this aim, we systematically reviewed randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of various psychotropic medications targeting symptoms of DBs and applied network meta-analysis to investigate their relative efficacy. Fifty-five RCTs meeting the inclusion criteria were selected. To predict and interpret relative treatment efficacy, we compared the efficacy of various psychotropic medications prescribed for DB symptoms based on their mechanism of action. Network meta-analysis revealed that for reducing DBs, second-generation antipsychotics, stimulants, and non-stimulant ADHD medications were more efficacious than placebo, and second-generation antipsychotics were the most efficacious. The dopaminergic modulation of top-down inhibitory process by these medications is discussed in this review. This study offers information on the relative efficacy of various psychotropic medications for the treatment of DB, and insight into a potential neurobiological underpinning for those symptoms. It also illustrates the potential utility of these neurobiological mechanisms as a target for future treatment studies.
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