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Autism Spectrum Disorder Medications for Anxiety and Depression
The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the medications most often prescribed for symptoms of anxiety, depression, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Only one of the SSRIs, fluoxetine (Prozac®), has been approved by the FDA for both OCD and depression in children age 7 and older. Three that have been approved for OCD are:
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox®) -- age 8 and older
- Sertraline (Zoloft®) -- age 6 and older
- Clomipramine (Anafranil®) -- age 10 and older.
Autism spectrum disorder treatment with these medications can be associated with decreased frequency of repetitive, ritualistic behavior, and improvements in eye contact and social contacts.
The FDA is studying and analyzing data to better understand how to use the SSRIs safely, effectively, and at the lowest dose possible.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Medications Used to Treat Behavioral ProblemsAntipsychotic medications have been used to treat severe behavioral problems in people with autism spectrum disorder. These medications work by reducing the activity in the brain of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Among the older, typical antipsychotics, such as haloperidol (Haldol®), thioridazine, fluphenazine, and chlorpromazine, haloperidol was found in more than one study to be more effective than a placebo in treating serious behavioral problems.
However, haloperidol, while helpful for reducing symptoms of aggression, can also have adverse side effects, such as sedation, muscle stiffness, and abnormal movements.
Placebo-controlled studies of the newer "atypical" antipsychotics are being conducted on children with autism. The first such study was on risperidone (Risperdal®). Results of the 8-week study were reported in 2002 and showed that risperidone was effective and well tolerated for the treatment of severe behavioral problems in children with autism. The most common side effects were increased appetite, weight gain and sedation.
Further long-term studies are needed to determine any long-term side effects. Other atypical antipsychotics that have been studied recently with encouraging results are olanzapine (Zyprexa®) and ziprasidone (Geodon®). Ziprasidone has not been associated with significant weight gain.