Pharmacological Treatment Options for Autism, Part 1: Psychopharmacologic Research over the Past Several Decades Has Given Us a Safe and Effective Supply of Medications Which Can Be Applied to the Treatment of Autism. Many Stem from the Treatment of Such Conditions as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, Depressive and Bipolar Disorders and Psychotic Disorders. (EP on Autism)

By Gordon, C. T.,, III | The Exceptional Parent, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Pharmacological Treatment Options for Autism, Part 1: Psychopharmacologic Research over the Past Several Decades Has Given Us a Safe and Effective Supply of Medications Which Can Be Applied to the Treatment of Autism. Many Stem from the Treatment of Such Conditions as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, Depressive and Bipolar Disorders and Psychotic Disorders. (EP on Autism)


Gordon, C. T.,, III, The Exceptional Parent


These medications effectively treat a number of symptoms and behaviors frequently present in individuals with autism. These include hyperactivity, impulsivity, attentional difficulties, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptomatology, repetitive motor behaviors (for example, tics and stereotypies), depression, mood swings, agitation, aggression, self-injurious behavior and insomnia.

Most of these clinical characteristics are considered "associated behaviors" in autism. Impairments in certain aspects of attention (for example, joint attention) and repetitive, ritualized behaviors are examples of core autistic symptomatology, which can be positively affected by medication.

The ultimate goal of medication in an individual who has autism is to prepare the brain's physiology to take optimal advantage of other aspects of treatment. These efforts include behavioral, educational and other experiential learning that can directly address core autistic cognitive impairments such as receptive, expressive, and pragmatic language abilities, social deficits and self-directed, repetitive behavior. In other words, pharmacologic intervention should typically be viewed as only one part of a multi-modal treatment plan for an individual with autism.

Overview of Medications

In this two-part series, we will focus on four major groups of medications: neuroleptics, anti-depressant/anti-anxiety agents, stimulants and anticonvulsants. It will become readily apparent that many of these medications affect more than one symptom or behavior. That is, they are relatively nonspecific in terms of their benefits. For each of these commonly prescribed groups of medications, general indications and side effects will be discussed.

As the medical community gains a better understanding of the genetics and biochemistry of autism, it will be possible to develop pharmacologic therapies which directly address underlying abnormalities; ie, more specific treatments.

However, the potential benefits of these nonspecific medications should not be underestimated. In some individuals they can result in a significant increase in the rate of learning or reduce aggressive behavior for an individual with autism so that institutionalization can be avoided.

It must be recognized that different people may respond to the same medication quite differently and an individual's response at different stages of brain development may vary depending upon age, associated medical conditions and other factors. For example, a medication which produces a behavioral side effect preventing its use for a child at age seven may not produce this side effect and be quite useful at age ten.

The brain is continually developing, especially during the first 21 years of life, and this needs to be taken into account. Because of individual differences in brain chemistry as well as differences in the rate of metabolism (breakdown) of medications, markedly different doses may be required for different individuals.

No Guessing

Even though the situation is quite complex, the prescription of medication for autism is not purely a "shot in the dark." Patients are not guinea pigs, and a physician should not simply prescribe whatever first comes to mind as an experiment.

There have been multiple scientifically sound, double-blind, controlled studies of all these medications. Most have been done on adults with other conditions; however, there is a sound base of information on psychopharmacologic agents from studies in children and a growing body of scientific data on medications in children and adolescents with autism. The prescribing physician needs to be aware of these studies and experienced in the pharmacologic treatment of patients with severe neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

Optimizing the benefits of the available medications requires the physician to bring to bear both art and science. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pharmacological Treatment Options for Autism, Part 1: Psychopharmacologic Research over the Past Several Decades Has Given Us a Safe and Effective Supply of Medications Which Can Be Applied to the Treatment of Autism. Many Stem from the Treatment of Such Conditions as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, Depressive and Bipolar Disorders and Psychotic Disorders. (EP on Autism)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.