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What are some medications used for Autism?

Updated on May 30, 2014


**Please note that I am NOT a trained professional. I am a parent with a child with Autism. Any information I give in my blog should NOT be used as a substitute for the expertise, knowledge, skill and judgment of healthcare practitioners.**

My daughter, Alana...

My husband, Mark, and I have a wonderful, gorgeous, caring, loving, giving and smart daughter. Her name is Alana and this year she turned seven (7). She was evaluated and diagnosed with Autism when she was three (3). Since then, we have had her on several medications; some with good success and others not so much. The decision to put her on medication was not an easy one to come to; much prayer and discussion happened between her father and I in determining a final decision. In the end, we opted for the medicine because, until she could learn to control some of the issues within her on her own, the medicine would help her quite considerably. Not everyone we know, even those within our family, thought we made the right decision with the medicine; but, as parents, we felt that ultimately it was up to us through the recommendation of Alana's primary care physicians.

As of today, Alana has been on or is on a number of medicines: Risperdal, Focalin, Clonidine, Adderall, Celexa and Hydroxy-zine. As I said earlier, some worked, some didn't. The best way for Mark and I to approach any medicine changes is through discussions with her "special needs" doctor.

Through a series of blogs, I will try my best to break down each of these medicines. If you are like me, information and knowledge is a must have.

What is Risperdal (Risperidone)?

From a primarily pharmacological standpoint, Risperdal is classified as a 2nd generation antipsychotic used to treat those persons suffering from Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and those with irritability due to Autism. It is an atypical antipsychotic and a dopamine antagonist possessing anti-serotonergic, anti-adrenergic and anti-histaminergic qualities.

Huh? Don't worry, I'm going to work at breaking it down a little further. Because, if you're like me, you don't speak "chemicalese". (lol)


  • A 2nd generation atypical antipsychotic drug is one used to treat various psychiatric conditions; such as Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc.
  • A dopamine antagonist will block dopamine receptors by using receptor antagonisms.
  • Dopamine receptors are defined as having the neurological functions for motivation, pleasure, cognition, memory, learning and fine motor skills.
  • Receptor antagonisms have an affinity (potency of) without having efficacy (the desired effect of).
  • Anti-serotonergic drugs inhibit the actions of serotonin receptors (those receptors which influence biological and neurological functions such as aggression, anxiety, appetite, cognition, learning, memory, mood, nausea and sleep.
  • Anti-adrenergic drugs help to signal epinephrine and norepinephrine within the brain and body. These are interchangeable as being adrenaline (energy and excitement).
  • Anti-histaminergic drugs give action to histamines which are hormonal responses to foreign pathogens with the body.

Risperidone (1 mg)

So, how does Risperdal (Risperidone) work with Autism?

In 2006, the FDA approved the use of Risperdal (Risperidone) for patients who were Autistic; however, the recommendation for such use did not include those who suffered moderate to servere aggression or had explosive behavior.

In regards to Autism, Risperdal (Risperidone) does NOT improve conversational abilities or social skills. Neither does it reduce obsessive behaviors.

A few of the behavioral issues that Risperdal (Risperidone) can help improve for those with Autism include; but are not limited to:

  • mild aggression
  • deliberate self-injury
  • temper tantrums (known in our house as "melt downs")
  • quickly changing moods

Side Effects (Common & Serious)

Some common side effects (that may go away during treatment) include; but are not limited to:

  • constipation
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • increase in dreams
  • nausea
  • sleepiness
  • weight gain
  • chills
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting

More serious side effects (those requiring immediate medical attention) include; but, are not limited to:

  • changes in vision
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • problems with urination
  • memory problems
  • shuffling walk
  • trembling hands and/or fingers
  • sudden weakness is face, arms or legs
  • extreme thirst
  • fast or shallow breathing
  • muscle cramps
  • pale or clammy skin


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    • ShirleyJCJohnson profile image

      Shirley Johnson 3 years ago from Sallisaw, OK

      Yes, I am aware of non-medicinal interventions for Autism. But, I thank you for your comment. My daughter does a bunch of things that help her every day. From counseling to scheduled routines (we make as few changes to her day as possible) to a gluten free diet. All of theses are issues I hope to express along the way through my articles on Autism; I just haven't gotten that far yet as I'm just new year. If you have further suggestions, please, do not hesitate to send me a comment. I thank you very much for your interest.

    • Anish Nrk profile image

      Dr.Anish.N.R.K 3 years ago from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

      All the drugs you mentioned in your hub are used in the management of autism. Hope you are aware of the non pharmacological management of autism. The Autistic spectrum disorders have mainly 3 features: Communication problems, social relationship problems and restricted interests. There is much you can intervene in the first two.

      #Encourage her to understand basic human emotions from pictures/photographs

      #train her on empathy

      #Practice her to learn what others expressions means

      #Encourage her to speak

      #Speech therapy

      Please read about Stephen wiltshire

      Drugs only have a secondary role in autism: for symptomatic management