The Reason for the Lack of Medications for Autism
No medication has been developed to treat the core symptoms of ASD and there is still no cure, but some medications have been developed to improve the function of those with autism. Some medications are designed to manage high energy levels, focusing ability, depression, and seizures, but only two have been approved by the FDA (Risperidone and Aripiprazole for severe tantrums and aggression). Many doctors will suggest a combination of medications and treatment strategies.
There are a wide variety of medications available since each may affect children differently, meaning parents should work closely with health care to determine the proper prescription and dosage. Additionally, some may have adverse effects that outweigh its benefits (such as lack of appetite when taking a prescription for reducing high energy levels).
Current Medications Available
Most medicines prescribed today to ease the disabling symptoms of autism are considered ‘off label,’ meaning the FDA approval is for another condition or disorder. The following may be prescribed by the child’s doctor:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) – These are antidepressants that help treat anxiety, depression, or even OCD in autistic children.
Older Antipsychotic – These medications (Haloperidol, Chlorpromazine, Fluphenazine, and Thioridazine) help control dopamine in the brain, which in turn helps to treat various behavioral disorders.
Newer Antipsychotic (Risperidone) – This drug is prescribed when a child has strong symptoms of outbursts, aggression or self-injury. A doctor may also prescribe any of the following similar medications: Zyprexa, Geodon, and Clonidine.
Anticonvulsants – help reduce or potentially prevent seizures. The following are common anticonvulsants: Tegretol, Lamictal, Topamax, and Depakote.
Stimulants (Ritalin) – For autistic children with hyperactivity or attention disorders, specifically ADHD, Ritalin may prescribed to help them sit still for longer periods of time and be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
Autism Medication Research
Studies are being conducted to determine other possibilities for autism medication, including ones that may help alleviate an autism spectrum disorders three main symptoms-communication difficulties, social challenges and repetitive behavior. The research is just beginning and has yet to yield any conclusive results, making the above medications the best considerations for those with ASD.
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Newsmax. (2011). 5 Top Drugs for Autism.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment.
Autism Speaks. (2015). Medicines for Treating Autism’s Core Symptoms.