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What are the common medications used to treat the symptoms of autism?
Several medications have been tried or are being evaluated for the treatment of autism. No medication has consistently proven to be of benefit for either curing or comprehensively managing autism in closely controlled clinical trials.
In the past, a piece on a television news show prompted a great deal of interest in the hormone secretin as a treatment for autism. A child with autism with chronic gastrointestinal complaints showed dramatic improvement following some routine testing performed by a gastroenterologist during which a small dose of secretin was administered. The family and their physicians felt that the secretin may have resulted in the improvement in the symptoms of autism. Many physicians began prescribing secretin, which can be expensive. However, studies published appear to completely refute the claim that secretin treatment benefits autistic patients. This example underscores the importance of good clinical trials to determine whether a drug will help patients with autism before it is widely used.
Some medications have been found to help address some symptoms that may present in autism. For example, haloperidol (Haldol) and aripiprazole (Abilify) are thought to help treat aggression and methylphenidate has been determined to be helpful in addressing hyperactivity and other symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in persons with autism. Risperidone (Risperdal) has been found to be quite helpful in many people whose autistic symptoms include odd, repetitive behaviors (stereotypies), hyperactivity, irritability, throwing tantrums, being aggressive towards others, and of injuring oneself.