Do Meds Work for Teens With Autism?

Autism treatments for teens are not well studied

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Autism can be treated with medications to help with some symptoms. Lots of studies have been done for children, but not much is known about how medications will help teens with autism.

A group of researchers looked at published reports where teens with autism were treated with medications. They found that very little research had been done for this age group.

What little was out there did not show any of the treatments to be consistently good at helping teens with autism.

"Ask a psychiatrist about the best therapy."

Teens and young adults with autism have different struggles than children. Often they have overcome early obstacles with language and social skills.

They move on to other struggles like finding a job, going to college and striving for independence.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, led by Dwayne Dove, MD, PhD, looked at the published studies for teens and young adults with autism who were treated with medications.

They found only eight studies that focused on the ages of 13 to 30 years of age.

In these studies, there was little evidence that any of the treatments were effective for this age group.

Some studies showed help with language skills or reading skills. Other studies found that medications did not help at all.

Putting studies together, they found that risperidone gave the most consistent results.  Teens using risperdone in some of these studies had fewer problem behaviors, like aggression and irritability.

Risperidone has also been found to lower problem behaviors in children with autism, so at least teens are helped in much the same way as children with this drug.

Most of the studies had major limitations, and the researchers were not inclined to make many conclusions about the use of medications for teens with autism.

The most commonly used drugs for autism are antipsychotics, like risperidone, and anti-anxiety medications. These types of drugs help to curb some of the symptoms of autism in children.

The studies looked at by Dr. Dove’s group had a variety of medication types across the eight studies.

The authors concluded that there just is not enough research to say that any medications do or don’t work for adolescents and young adults.

This study was published September 24 in Pediatrics. Funding information was not available on the journal’s website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 27, 2012
Last Updated:
October 1, 2012