Isn’t There a Pill for Autism?


Almost every family I’ve worked with considers some kind of medication for their child with autism at some point. Lots of people end up getting prescribed some kind of medication. In fact, more than half the teens with autism that I know take at least one medication. They actually take some pretty serious stuff.

I’m distressed every time I go to look up research about meds for autism. It’s not that I think medication is bad–I’ve actually seen some kids really benefit from taking psychotropic/anti-psychotic meds — but I think the system and the background research is imprecise.

Consider the following:

  • Only 9 studies of psychotropic meds and autism were considered high-quality in a recent systematic review from 2000 – 2010.
  • These nine reviewed different medications and different age groups.
  • There are 9 million doctor visits in regard to “Off Label” use of anti-psychotic medications. That means the FDA hasn’t approved the med to be used in the way the doctor prescribed it.
  • Factors unrelated to clinical presentation seem highly associated with prescribing practices.That means factors like being in foster care or having medicaid increase your chances of being prescribed 3 or more anti-psychotics.
  • 18% of kids 0-2 years old (with autism, on medicaid) use a psychotropic medication.
  • The lack of research is distressing for families, and potentially harmful for kids.

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