Which medications in the drug class Second-Generation Antipsychotics are used in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Second-Generation Antipsychotics

The atypical antipsychotic agents risperidone and aripiprazole have been approved by the FDA for irritability associated with autistic disorders.

Risperidone (Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab)

Risperidone is an atypical antipsychotic agent that is indicated for irritability associated with autistic disorder in children and adolescents aged 5-16 years. Risperidone is a mixed serotonin-dopamine antagonist that binds to 5-HT2 with very high affinity and binds to the dopamine D2 receptor with less affinity. Affinity for the dopamine D2 receptor is 20 times lower than that for the 5-HT2 receptor. Risperidone is FDA approved for irritability and aggression in children with ASD, 5 years and older. 

The combination of serotonin antagonism and dopamine antagonism is thought to improve negative symptoms of psychoses and reduce the incidence of extrapyramidal side effects in comparison with conventional antipsychotics.

Aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify MyCite)

Aripiprazole is indicated for irritability associated with autistic disorder in children and adolescents aged 6-17 years. Aripiprazole is thought to be a partial dopamine (D2) and serotonin (5-HT1A) agonist, and to antagonize serotonin (5-HT2A). Aripiprazole is available as a tablet, an orally disintegrating tablet, or an oral solution.

Ziprasidone (Geodon)

Ziprasidone, a second-generation antipsychotic drug, is used off-label to treat serious behavior disorders associated with autism, such as self-injurious behavior. It elicits its effects through antagonism of D2, D3, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C, 5-HT1A, 5-HT1D, and alpha1-adrenergic receptors. In addition, it has a moderate antagonistic effect for histamine H1. It moderately inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine.

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