The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
By Laura Geggel
December 3, 2013
"Little is known about the long-term effects of these drugs, or about how the different drugs may interact with one another."
Children with autism often have an array of challenging symptoms — irritability, anxiety, sadness, aggression and inattention — and the few behavioral therapies that may improve these symptoms are time-intensive, expensive and sometimes inaccessible.
It's no surprise then, that many doctors and families turn to medications to alleviate symptoms — for example, antidepressants to relieve sadness, or psychostimulants to increase attention span.
Little is known about the long-term effects of these drugs, or about how the different drugs may interact with one another. Still, it’s common for children with autism to be taking more than one or two of these drugs at the same time, according to two new studies published in the past few weeks.
One of the studies, published in the November issue of Pediatrics, analyzed medication use in 33,565 individuals with autism, from birth to age 20, between 2001 and 2009.
Of the 21,334 children who received prescriptions, 1/3 took a single drug during the study period. Another 1/3 took more than one drug at a time and about 5% took a heavy load of four or more medications.
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