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In the treatment of Asperger's, some physicians have begun to look at certain medications as viable treatment options for the disorder. Aspies and medications (the use of them in treatment) have become the focus of several studies. Some of the studies question the use of anti-psychotic drugs to treat Asperger's and high functioning autism. Researchers opposed to using anti-psychotic drugs worry that the side effects may be causing other harm to the Aspie. Other studies cite research that demonstrates the efficacy of these drugs in eliminating or decreasing symptoms of the disorder. Both sides, though, admit to the effectiveness of certain medications such as Arpiprazole and Resperidone. Although no medication offers a cure for Asperger's, the physicians who advocate the use of anti-psychotic medications believe the risks to be minimal.
Here are a few of the most common drugs which have been prescribed to treat symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. Some of the side effects of these medications are also included.
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Arpiprazole, which is more commonly known as Abilify, is used to treat irritability associated with Asperger's. Some Aspies become easily irritated or agitated which can lead to emotional outbursts or anxiety. Arpiprazole is said to treat this particular symptom quite effectively. Along with its benefits there are some side effects. These include weight gain and an increase in blood sugar levels (both of which could be problematic for an Asperger's person with Type II Diabetes).
Risperidone or Risperdal is also used to treat agitation and irritability. Unfortunately its benefits may pale in comparison to some of its side effects. Patients have experienced trouble sleeping, a runny nose, an increase in appetite, and a rise in both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Patients will have to carefully weigh if the possible side effects outweigh the benefits of using Risperidone.
Guanfacine, or Intuniv as it is more commonly called, is another medication used for Asperger's symptoms. It is used to treat hyperactivity and inattention in children. Some Asperger's individuals also suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The inability to concentrate can interfere with schooling for children and job performance for adults. It must be noted that it can be very difficult for practitioners to differentiate between the primary disorder of Asperger's and one of these secondary conditions.
Some of the side effects of this particular medication include drowsiness, irritability, headache, constipation, and bedwetting.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or Flovoxamine has been prescribed to treat depression and repetitive behaviors in Asperger's individuals. One of the hallmarks of autism is engaging in repetitive behaviors such as finger twirling. In addition, many Aspies suffer from depression as adolescents or adults due to their inability to make or maintain interpersonal relationships. SSRI's have been found to successfully address these symptoms in some Aspies. As with most medications there are side effects.The side effects from this medication include restlessness and agitation.
Olanzapine, or Zyprexa as it is also called, is also used to treat repetitive behaviors in Aspergers individuals. Like the other medicines there are some side effects. Patients using Olanzapine have experienced an increase in appetite, drowsiness, weight gain, and increases in both their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Naltrexone (Revia) is a medication that is primarily used to treat alcoholism. It may also reduce repetitive behaviors in Asperger's individuals. Using naltrexone to treat Asperger's is relatively new; therefore few studies have been conducted on its effectiveness or possible side effects for Asperger's persons.
Atomoxetine (Strattera) is another medication used in Asperger's individuals. Several studies cite improvement in social isolation or withdrawal, irritability, and repetitive speech.
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Aspies and Medications: A Good Mix?
There are strong arguments for and against mixing Aspies and medications. One argument in favor of anti-psychotic medication is that although the drugs don't cure the condition, they combat some of the troubling symptoms such as irritability, agitation, and repetitive behaviors that can impede the Asperger's person's social interaction. However, others argue that some of the side effects create other health problems or exacerbate the condition that is the result of a fundamental change in brain functioning.
Much more research and study needs to be done to see if the use of anti-psychotic medications offer only short-term solutions to a lifelong condition or create other health issues for those with Asperger's Syndrome.
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Asperger Syndrome, Brasic, James R. MD www.emedicine.mediscape.com
Asperger's Syndrome, by Mayo staff www.mayoclinic.com
Weak Evidence Supports Asperger's Medications, http://www.aspergersnews.com/Weak-Evidence-Supports-Various-Medications-of-Autism.html, accessed July 14,2011.
Asperger's Syndome and High Functioning Autism: Research Concerns:Treatment and Intervention Studies, Blacher, Jan, Bonnie Kraemmer, Monica Schalow Uiversity of California Riverside, Graduate School of Education www.medscape.com