Medications for Autism or PDD

No medication has been “proven safe and effective” in Autism or PDD, high or low functioning. Almost every psychiatric drug imaginable has been TRIED – few have been reliably found helpful, although sometimes one or another is reported to be effective anecdotally, in individual or a small group of cases. It seems to be a very individual thing… some kids with PDD will respond to one or another med while others won’t, and the “state of the art” really isn’t very far beyond trial and error.

The exception to the above is a “neuroleptic” or “major tranquilizer” such as Haldol or Mellaril… the same drugs used in adult schizophrenia. While these certainly help, it is debatable whether they help the child vs. the child’s caretakers more. In addition, when started in childhood the long term risk of developing complications from such meds such as tardive dyskinesia is HUGE and this is why we are generally very reluctant nowadays to start such meds in autistic childen unless there is just no other option.

SO… in the meantime there are MANY other meds which SOMETIMES work in individual children with PDD, although they don’t statistically work better than placebo (or have never been adequately studied) in large groups of PDD kids. They include TCA’s (especially Anafranil and Desipramine), SSRI’s (such as Prozac), Clonidine, stimulants (such as Ritalin), Depakote, Naltrexone, and Klonipin. I should say that all these meds also sometimes backfire and make the kid considerably worse (especially the stimulants). When trying any and all of the above it helps to pick one or two “target symptoms” and track them closely and semiquantitatively to judge medication effect… relying on the subjective impressions of parents and teachers is not wise because the DESIRE to see some benefit is huge.

The bottom line is that finding a medicine that’s right for YOUR child is a trial and error process best undertaken by a physician (Child Psychiatrist, Developmental Pediatrician, or Neurologist) who is very experienced with or specializing in PDD/Autism, who is willing and able to get to know your child WELL before embarking down this road.