Medications For Autism: About Drug Treatment for Autism

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Issues such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and impulsivity are common in children with autism, and parents often seek the advice of doctors in regard to medicating their children. A number of medications for autism and autism-related symptoms are available, and some of these medications can be prescribed for both children and adults. The following is a guide to common medications used in the treatment of autism:

Types of Medications

Antipsychotic medications

Antipsychotic medications, such as Seroquel (quetiapine), Risperdal (risperidone), and Zyprexa (olanzapine), work on the areas of the brain that regulate symptoms of autism such as aggression, emotional withdrawal, and extreme hyperactivity. These medications, which reduce dopamine activity in the brain, are relatively new and produce less severe side effects than those associated with antipsychotics of the past.

Stimulant medications

Stimulant medications are often prescribed for children with autism who exhibit ADHD traits such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Examples of these medications include Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (amphetamine salts), and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help older children and adults with autism in managing symptoms such as depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and anxiety. These medications affect the brain chemical serotonin and are prescribed under brand names that include Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Luvox (fluvoxamine). Adults with autism also have the option of taking SSRIs such as Paxil (paroxetine).

Anticonvulsant Medications

Anticonvulsant medications such as Depakote (valproic acid), Tegretol (carbamazepine), and Topamax (topiramate) are commonly prescribed for people with autism who suffer from seizures or who are in need of a mood stabilizer. These medications require careful monitoring by physicians.

Side Effects of Medications

--Antipsychotic medications can sometimes cause side effects such as weight gain and increased appetite. These side effects are most often associated with the use of Risperdal. Some antipsychotic medications have sedative properties as well.

--Stimulant medications are linked to side effects that include irregular sleep patterns, loss of appetite, and facial tics. Occasionally, these types of medications can increase irritability in children and adults. Some people may need to try several kinds of stimulant medications in order to find the one that works best.

--Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can produce relatively common side effects such as insomnia, weight fluctuations, and agitation. Adolescents and adults with autism who take SSRIs should stay in consistent contact with the prescribing physician, as these medications can sometimes increase depression or suicidal impulses.

--Anticonvulsant medications can cause nausea, headaches, and tremors. These medications are typically prescribed at the lowest effective dose, and they may not eliminate seizures altogether.

Though autism cannot be cured entirely through either therapeutic or medicinal treatment methods, medications for autism can help those with the condition to lead more productive lives. When closely monitored by professionals who are experienced in adjusting dosages and evaluating side effects, children and adults with autism can improve in their daily functioning.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health–

  2. eMedicineHealth–