Common Medications Used To Treat Autism | Autism PDD


Common Medications to Treat Autism

Control of Aggression: Antipsychotics, Antiepileptics & Antihypertensives

Of all the therapies in use for autism today, probably the most common is medication. Most physicians treat their patients with autism with one form of medication or another in an attempt to control the behavioral symptoms. It appears that for the most part, the same pharmaceutical treatments are in use today that have been for the past five years or so, and while these do not treat the entire body, they do work symptomatically in many children. These medications fall into several categories. It is my hope that this article will help the parent of a child with autism to sort their way through the maze of scientific jargon, and help them understand more about the medications that have been prescribed for their child.

One of the primary classes of medications which are prescribed for autism is the antipsychotic.

These medications help to control the aggressive behaviors. While these medications are used to treat psychotic behaviors in psychiatric patients, they have been shown to be effective with autism, and their use is not intended to imply that autism and psychosis are in any way related. It is the results of the treatment that make their use so popular.

Another class of medications which control the aggressive behaviors is the antiepileptic. These medications help to stabilize brain activity and therefor assist in the control of behaviors. Each of these medications requires regular blood testing in order to insure that liver or bone marrow damage does not occur. Since these medications are designed to treat seizure activity, they are often prescribed for the child who suffers a seizure disorder as well. Their use provides the additional benefit of behavioral effects.

Surprisingly the antihypertensive (high blood pressure) medications have shown promise with aggressive behaviors in autism. Again, it is unknown why these drugs seem to work, but for some children they do stem aggressiveness and emotional outbursts.

Of these Inderal (Propranolol) and Visken (Pindolol) both seem to lessen aggression and explosions. Their side effects include a sedative effect, aggravation of asthmatic symptoms and lightheadedness or fainting due to the reduction of blood pressure. A physician should be consulted if signs of hypotension appear.

Lithium had been another medication which was effective in dealing with explosive outbursts and agitation, but its side effects such as thyroid dysfunction have led many physicians to no longer use it. Lithium can also cause weight gain, stomach upset and frequent urination. It requires close monitoring with regular blood tests and cardiac testing. Other products containing Lithium salts, and which have the same effects are Eskalith and Lithobid.

Page two discusses the common medications prescribed for controlling self-injurious behaviors and stereotypical behaviors.

Control of Self-Injurious and Stereotypical Behaviors: SSRI's and Opioid Antago

The common medications prescribed for either stereotypical or self-injurious behaviors are the class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI's. While very little in the way of "hard research" has been done to document the processes by which these medications work, the overwhelming collection of anecdotal evidence has led many physicians to believe that they do, in some way, help to control these types of behaviors effectively.

Of the common SSRI's used in the treatment of Autism/PDD, Prozac (Fluoxetine)is the standard by which all others are compared. It helps to lessen stereotyped behaviors and self injurious movements and has very few side effects. Of those effects, weight gain or loss is not significant in most cases, but increased agitation can be. <>zSB(3,3);if(!z336){var zIsb=gEI("adsb");if(zIsb){"inline";zIsb.s tyle.height="0px";"0px";}var zIss=gEI("adss");if(zIss){"inline";zIss.s tyle.height="0px";"0px";}} Depending on the degree of agitation, it appears that with the use of Prozac and the other SSRI's, the physician could be simply trading one set of Autistic behaviors for another.

Luvox (Fluvoxamine) on the other hand, while not as popular as Prozac, has the advantage that it causes less agitation, with the same other side effects. It also has a sedating effect which is not found in Prozac. Again, the benefits are the same as with its more popular cousin, but the reduction in agitation makes it a pharmaceutical worth researching for its usefulness in treating Autism/PDD. Luvox is known for its effectiveness in treating OCD.

Zoloft (Setraline) and Paxil (Paroxetine) have essentially the same characteristics as Prozac. The side effects are almost identical, except that with Paxil, the tendency toward weight gain becomes more likely. Both of these medications have the reputation of being less likely to agitate than Prozac.

Research has shown that chemically, the body releases naturally occurring endorphines when a self-injurious behavior occurs, much as some narcotics do to cause addiction. This discovery led researchers to wonder if the repeated self-injurious behaviors might be a response to an addition to the body's own endorphin release. If this were true, then medications designed to neutralize the effects of some narcotic substances, opioid antagonists, might be useful in treating this pattern in the Autistic/PDD individual as well.

As a result of this theory, the opioid antagonist, ReVia (Naltrexone) is being researched and used on patients who exhibit self-injurious behaviors in an attempt to control the endorphine "rush" and bring these behaviors under control. Research into this medication has also shown that there may be a potential for increased verbal output.

For many Autistic individuals, medications play a major role in helping to control the typical Autistic behaviors. They are not the only method of treatment which should be considered by a parent or a physician. However, their role cannot be ignored or denied in light of their proven effectiveness. For many children, a medication can make the world better for the child, and the child better for the world.

<>zSB(3,3);if(!z336){var zIsb=gEI("adsb");if(zIsb){"inline";zIsb.s tyle.height="0px";"0px";}var zIss=gEI("adss");if(zIss){"inline";zIss.s tyle.height="0px";"0px";}} This is good information. My son is taking Geodon, and we are seeing marvelous results. Benjamin is dx PDD/NOS and connot be picked out of the regular class. He has had tremendous early intervention and is now going to the First Grade in the Fall. I forget the class of med it is in. what do you know about it? I had to stop giving him stimulants, they made him hallucinate. He is sleeping very well and is being able to use hard-won skills regularlly. It doesn't cure the sensory issues, but the outbursts and aggression are are highly infrequent. There is a 'burp' in the calm every few months. He has been on the Geodon since December 2004. JanetThis is fantastic information, my son is on Fluvoxamine and we are very happy with his happiness so far. Daniel did depakote er for a while but this year he was daze more so we stopped it. Seizure meds are used in some to treat the seizures/bp traits. Daniel is now just on vitamins and Concerta w/no problems so far. I was a depakote/stem (Dexaderine)med kid plus a Ld school kid as well. Since seizure free school stuff as not as hard for me now. Herbs can helps as well if you don't want to try meds. Just so you now you could try Life force international's Body balance loads of good stuff is well. This product has amino's/lithium both as well as loads of vitamins as a well the cost is about 29. a quart. Blood levels only 2 times a year needed on this med. Daniel needs weight gain. He is only 67 lbs at 11. Depakote also makes you hungrey all day. I ate 5 plates per meal on this drug as a kid. My thyroid is dead now! I take Armour for it!Thanks for the info.  Can't wait to check out links.  My son has never been on meds (except to sleep) and now at 11 yrs. we are thinking about trying something.  Now I have a place to start looking. My son has been on risperdal since he was about 9, he was having massive outbursts and hurting himself by banging himself against walls etc.. his dose was very small back then, as he got older the aggressiveness came back am assuming teenage hormones and the inability to express himself had a lot to do with it, his meds were increased and chlorpromazine was added to the mix, he has gained an enormous amount of weight, so thats not healthy at all, and still has the some outbursts,but not as much, his aggression was hard to manage and I often got a wallop if I was in the firing line, I used to be terrified as he is tall and overweight and can really hurt when he lash's out.... what breaks my heart is knowing he cannot express anger like most teens, and having to keep him calm is quite depressing all together... I know he has a lot to say, and he can't...

We started my son on Prozac 5 days ago, as it was apparent that he was becoming more anxious and was ticking more.  So far so good!  He is still ticking, but not as much as before, and he didn't freak out about the bugs when playing golf on Sunday (as opposed to COMPLETELY freaking out the week before).  Our only issue is that he can't swallow pills, so we have him on the liquid form.  He really doesn't like the taste of it, so that has been a bit of a challenge.  I did some online research, and while they don't have chewable prozac for humans, they do have it for dogs.  Hmmm, I wonder how he'd do with a beef flavored treat....


Has anyone had trouble with an increase with aggressive
behavior becoming more frequent when taking concerta. My
son is on 54mg and is 15. He has gained some weight and it
was a good thing. Also no medications have stopped his
growth he is currently 5'11" so we have not difficulties
there. lol

Thanks in advance for your help! Thanks for your valuable information.

 I am looking for ways to get my son out of his ‘fantasy world’ and back to our planet.  His talk therapist said that in the past, Joseph used to be more ‘verbal’ and actually talked to his therapist, now Joseph is in the ‘fantasy world’; and it is hard for the therapist to ‘bring Joseph out’.  Joseph’s therapist also stated that Joseph used to be ‘more social’ when his Risperdal dose was higher. I was wondering if anyone has experience with a situation such as this.  I have done limited research on the benefits of Abilify, and was wondering if anyone has had any good results with Abilify?  My son is 6’2”, 220#.  His Great Grandfather was 6’8”, and Great-Great Grandfather was 7’4”.