Medications for Autism
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The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
There are no specific treatments for autism. However, as part of a comprehensive management program, several kinds of medication may be helpful for selected symptoms. For example, many individuals with autism have behaviors associated with anxiety, mood lability, inattention, obsessive-compulsive type habits, or aggression. Some of these medications are used as part of a more comprehensive treatment program to help with these types of behaviors.
None of these drugs have been approved for the treatment of autism by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, it is not uncommon for drugs, once on the market, to show effectiveness in "unlabeled" conditions. Their safety generally remains unchanged when used for different purposes.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
- Thioridazine (Mellaril)
- Haloperidol (Haldol)
- Risperidone (Risperdal)
- Fluoxetine]]> (Prozac)
- ]]>Fluvoxamine]]> (Luvox)
- ]]>Sertraline]]> (Zoloft)
- ]]>Clomipramine]]> (Anafranil)
Some drugs in this class appear to have a beneficial effect on people with autism by altering brain chemistry. These drugs increase the available amount of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline. These chemicals are believed to have stimulant effects.
Clomipramine is a medication used to treat ]]>obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)]]> , which shares features with autism. Since no chemical abnormalities specific to autism have yet been identified, the use of these drugs is guided by experience and trial and error.
Medications are given once or twice daily in doses similar to those used to treat ]]>depression]]> . Side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness, and sedation are most common, but there are many other side effects, some serious, such as disturbances of heart rhythm. Talk to your doctor about the specific side effects of these drugs.
- Methylphenidate]]> (Ritalin, Concerta)
Most commonly used for ]]>attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)]]> , methylphenidate may help certain forms of autism, as well. Methylphenidate is not recommended for children under the age of 6.
Possible side effects include:
- Worsening mental disturbances
- Chlorpromazine]]> (Thorazine)
- ]]>Thioridazine]]> (Mellaril)
- ]]>Haloperidol]]> (Haldol)
- ]]>Risperidone]]> (Risperdal)
These drugs are commonly used to treat ]]>schizophrenia]]> , but are also used for autism. These drugs have occasionally severe side effects and should be used with great caution.
Possible side effects include:
- Uncontrolled movements
- High fever
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Liver toxicity
In some cases these medications may cause unexpected reactions in autistic patients. If your child is taking any of these medications, pay close attention for changes in behavior and keep in close contact with your child's doctor.
Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:
- Take your medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
- Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
- Do not share them.
- Know what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor.
- Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medicine and herb or dietary supplements.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml . Updated April 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.
Behrman RE, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.
Coghill D. Current issues in child and adolescent psychopharmacology. Part 2: Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, autism, Tourette’s and schizophrenia. Adv Psychiatr Treat . 2003;9:289-299.
Drug Facts and Comparisons . 56th ed. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 2001.
Goetz, CG. Goetz’s Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.
Rapin I. An 8-year-old boy with autism. JAMA . 2001;285:1749-1757.
Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2008.
Last reviewed December 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD ]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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