Psychopharmacology in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Henry W.M. Kwok


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2003;16(5) 

In This Article


An up-to-date overview of psychopharmacology in ASD has been presented in this paper. Virtually every review of this subject has commented on the methodological inadequacies of the studies that make interpretation of data difficult. In particular, many do not take into account the level of intellectual functioning of the subjects, or where they live. Nevertheless, with advances in neuroscience and pharmacology, it is becoming increasingly evident that the second-generation antipsychotic medications and serotonin reuptake inhibitors are effective and well tolerated in the treatment of some symptoms in ASD. There are also ongoing studies exploring the potential benefits of other approaches such as the use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, anticonvulsants, dietary enzymes and secretin in this disorder.

Although a multi-model approach is imperative in the management of autism, medications are frequently required for an individual to benefit from behavioral and educational interventions[56*]. Drug treatment should be evidence-based and targeted to specific symptoms that are clinically significant because of their frequency, intensity, pervasiveness or impact. If medications are considered, there should be a careful baseline assessment and documentation of the target symptoms. Subsequent monitoring with regard to efficacy and side-effects should be carried out jointly by the clinician, the patient and the carers. As there are still many gaps in our knowledge concerning the etiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology of ASD, additional well-designed clinical studies and research in basic sciences are required to guide clinicians on prescription for this population.


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