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Autism Drugs & Medications

A number of drugs are available that can help people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These do not treat or cure the disorder itself, but aid with depression, anxiety, anger, and other issues autistic people might face due to their condition.

Care must be taken with these medications because many of them have side effects and may even have effects on people with ASDs that they might not have in other people.

Some of these drugs are often prescribed "off-label" when they are administered to people with ASDs, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This means that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drugs for use in children with an ASD, but doctors can prescribe them if it is deemed appropriate for the patient.

Below are some of the drugs listed by NIMH for helping people with ASDs including how those medications will be useful:

To Treat Aggressive Behavior

Risperidone (Risperdal): This drug is approved by the FDA as a treatment for aggression, temper tantrums, and attempts at deliberate self injury in autistic children ages five to 16.

Other drugs used for treating aggression and other behavioral problems in autistic children include: Olanzapine (Zyprexa), haloperidol (Haldol), and thioridazine.

To Treat OCD and Depression

Fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) are both used for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

To Treat Seizures

There are several drugs used for treating seizures, which afflict many people with ASDs. These include carbamazepine, also called Tegretol, and valproic acid, also called Depakote.

To Treat Hyperactivity

For hyperactivity, there are stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and dectroamphetamine (Adderal).

Other Drugs

Other drugs, including diazepam, lithium, and lorazepam, have also been used to treat various symptoms suffered by autistic people.

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed : Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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