Currently, there is no medication that can cure ASD or all of its symptoms. But in many cases, medication can help treat some of the symptoms associated with ASD, especially certain behaviors.
Health care providers often use medications to deal with a specific behavior, such as to reduce self-injury or aggression. Once a symptom is no longer a problem, the person with autism can focus on other things, including learning and communication. Research shows that medication is most effective when used in combination with behavioral therapies.1
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug risperidone (pronounced rih-SPERR-ih-dohn) for treating irritability in children with autism who are between 5 years and 16 years of age.2 Risperidone is currently the only FDA-approved drug for the treatment of specific autism symptoms.
Other drugs are often used to help improve symptoms of autism, but they are not approved by the FDA for this specific purpose. Some medications on this list are not approved for those younger than 18 years of age. Please consult the FDA for complete information on the medications listed below.
All medications carry risks, some of them serious. Families should work closely with their children's health care providers to ensure safe use of any medication.3
Autism Speaks, one of the leading autism science and family support organizations in the United States, offers a tool to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions about medication. Visit http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/resources-programs/autism-treatment-network/tools-you-can-use/medication-guide for more information.
Health care providers usually prescribe a medication on a trial basis to see if it helps. Some medications may make symptoms worse at first or take several weeks to work. Your child's health care provider may have to try different dosages or different combinations of medications to find the most effective plan.
Families, caregivers, and health care providers need to work together to make sure that the medication plan is safe and that all medications have some benefit.
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