Introduction Psychotropic m edication includes drugs such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, m ood stabilisers, psychostimulants, anti-anxiety drugs and hypnotics. Some would include anti-epileptic drugs in this group. These drugs act on the central nervous system and can be used to modify hum an behaviour and treat psychiatric disorders, including psychological symptoms. Drugs such as beta-blockers and opioid antagonists that have an effect on hum an behaviour can also be regarded as psychotropic m edication in this context. A high proportion of adults w ho have learning disabilities receive psychotropic drugs, m any are on m ore than one drug, and m any receive these drugs at a m uch higher dose than is recom m ended in the British National Formulary (Deb and Fraser 1994). Although these drugs are used to treat psychiatric disorders, there are also m any cases w here they are used to treat behaviour disorders (in the absence of a diagnosed psychiatric disorder) for which they are not indicated. For example, Clarke et a l (1990) showed that 36% of adults w ith learning disability w ho did not have a diagnosis of psychiatric illness also received psychotropic m edication. The use of psychotropic drugs in the m anagem ent of behaviour disorders per se in people w ith learning disabilities in the absence of a diagnosable psychiatric illness remains controversial (Reiss and Aman 1998; Santosh and Baird 1999; Aman et a l 2000; Deb and W eston 2000).