Anti-Psychotics for Autism Set to Flood the Market


Andrew Soundarajan

In my ongoing research of autism treatments, I have been delighted to find that some of the most effective means of addressing autism involve reconnecting with the natural world, the physical body and the creative self.

Heartening results have been reported from a vast array of activities including yoga, gardening, dance, horseback riding and art therapy. Fun, engaging and non-invasive, these activities produce real improvements in the functionality and level of well-being of individuals with autism. 

This is especially important to bear in mind in light of a disturbing press release I read yesterday addressing the “underserved” market of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by the pharmaceutical industry. A rush of enthusiasm to market atypical anti-psychotics for irritability in children with autism owes to these stated facts:
"Over the past 6 years, three major events have impacted the autism spectrum disorders market. In 2006, Risperdal became the first drug to receive approval from the US FDA for the symptomatic treatment of irritability in children and adolescents with ASDs. Later, in 2009, the FDA approval Abilify for the same indication. In 2008, generic risperidone launched following Risperdal’s US patent expiry."

The FDA is doing us no favors in allowing our children to be viewed as “market share” by these wolves at the door. I know of what I speak. In a moment of desperation when I was mistakenly told my son was psychotic and likely schizophreniac, he participated in a drug trial of risperidone which was one of the worst experiences of his life. Sedated to the point of paralysis, he screamed his head off around the clock. Against doctor’s orders, I cut short the seven-day trial. Irate, the psychiatrist was ready to try Lithium next. I told him to forget it and we never went back.

Respidone carries heavy weight long-term side effects such as tremendous weight gain, diabetes and uncontrollable muscle spasms. Abilify, which is vaunted to have fewer side effects, names headaches, anxiety and sleeplessness as being the most common, with dizziness, blurred vision, tremors and edema, among many others. These drugs yield big profits, but not to our children. 

The harsh reality is that autism is now an industry and we parents, always yearning to help our children, are vulnerable to exploitation from a myriad of quarters. Like me, you may hear that atypical psychotropics are the answer to your child’s problems, but the only garden path you should be lead down is the one where you till and water the earth with your child. 

17 Responses to Anti-Psychotics for Autism Set to Flood the Market

  1. Debbie K. says:

    My son was on Risperdal for about a year from the age of 8 1/2 to 9 1/2. He did gain so much weight, his doctor finally took him off of it. All he wanted to eat was carbs! He’s 5’2″ (10 1/2) and was up to 108 pounds. Now he’s been off it for about a year, and he’s down to less than 90 pounds! Now we have the opposite problem: getting him to eat!

  2. Susan says:

    If you haven’t already, you might want to have a food allergy test done for him. I thought my son was anorexic, but he turned out to be allergic to almost everything he was eating. Since his diet’s changed, his appetite and weight are healthy.


  3. Debbie K. says:

    He actually was tested for food allergies when he was 2 (he tested allergic to wheat and milk), but I should probably have it done again in light of his autism diagnosis and his MAJOR food issues. He’s had food issues his entire life, super picky eater. I thought we’d have to send formula to college with him, cause he showed very little interest in solid food as a baby. I’m not sure how much is related to his sensitivities, though, cause he says a lot of things smell disgusting to him and he’s very sensitive to textures. It’s tough getting calories into him, plus his medication for the ADHD takes the edge off his appetite, too. In addition, he’d rather play than eat! (Wish I could be that way. I’d rather eat than do almost anything!)

  4. Susan says:

    Yeah, I know how tough it is. My son was on anti-anxiety meds and then his new doctor told me they were upsetting his stomach, so he replaced them with oxytocin and nutritional doses of lithium. Eliminating carbs and sugar calmed my son down quite a bit. He is still totally picky about textures and the visuals of food, but I’ve been able to find enough things that he does like, finally.

    Good luck…SM

  5. Lynda says:

    My son is 7. Since he was diagnosed at 2, we have tried bahvior modification, therapy, all kinds of extensive alternatives. It was when he got to the point this last year where he was throwing chairs at teachers and being physically abusive and saying horrible things to them that we sought out medicinal help. My son is on guanfacine (an adhd med which is also used for blood pressure and is non-stimulant) and lamictal (we have noticed signifigant weight gain which is hard on him because he has ALWAYS been big. He has gained approx. 16 lbs in the last 4 months)The difference in him however, is AMAZING. I know some children may not benefit from medicinal resources, but some do.

  6. Debbie K. says:

    I would be the last person to second guess whatever you feel is best for your son, Lynda. If it is helping him, then it’s a good thing! My son still takes anti-anxiety meds (he was pulling his hair out!), and they’ve made a big difference. You know your own child better than anyone. If you think it’s the best thing for your child and you see a positive difference in his behavior, don’t let anyone tell you different! Bless you!

  7. Susan says:

    My son at times has been on enough anti-anxiety meds to tranquilize a horse. I make no judgment about meds, I know they can be necessary and a lifeline. I was happy to be able to eventually phase them out of his life, but that was over time and a long, circuitous journey.

    I do object to atypical anti-psychotics being targeted to non-psychotic individuals, esp kids on Medicaid who are not given any other treatment options.


  8. Paige says:

    I am greatly opposed to any atipical anti-psychotics for use on anyone under the age of 18 especially those who have asd, I am a typically functioning young adult and i was at the age of 12 and 13 put on 2 anti psychotics called respridol and geodon for typical depression, I went mad from the medication I slept in class had viloent outbursts for no reason and not to mention I gained 40lbs. I tell you all this because these medications are not safe by any means and i am currently 19yrs old in college studing special education and want to work with asd children/adolecents, and would just collapse at the sight of seeing any of my future students on any of these antipsychotics. I have since recovered from most of the harmful effects of the medications i was on and am now on a mild anti anxiety to balance myself out. i do agree though parents do know best for their children I will never disagree with that however I will always offer advice and facts when I feel it can be used and this seemed like the appropriate place for me to do so…

  9. Debbie K. says:

    Just goes to show that every individual’s body chemistry is different and any medication needs to be closely monitored by a doctor. In my son’s case, he had good results, except for the weight gain. You can’t make a blanket statement about all medications. It didn’t work in your case, but might in others. I have a family member with bipolar disorder. Some medications have the opposite effect on him that they do on other people, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work for others. Medications can be miraculous in some cases, disastrous for others. Bottom line is that they need to be closely monitored by parents and physicians.

  10. Debbie K. says:

    Just to further illustrate how all people can be different, a few years back my doctor put me on Paxil (anti-depressant) during a very difficult period of my life. I felt better almost immediately, after having suffered some pretty severe depression for several years. A close friend of mine (approximately the same height and weight as me) was put on the same medication for depression. She took ONE PILL and ended up in the psych hospital for a week! What works for one person can have the opposite effect on another.

  11. Barbara says:

    I started my son on bio-med almost 4 years ago with good results and had always been against “medicating” him. However when he was beating the crap out of his sister almost daily, I had to rethink my position.He has been on Zoloft for almost a year, only gained 3 pounds, down to maybe 1 violent outburst a month, and even those are not really that bad. I think what it boils down to is, what is best for each individual child. And we all have to do what is best for OUR OWN CHILD. I refuse to allow anyone to make me feel bad for the choice I mad for BOTH my son, and for the safety of my daughter!

  12. Debbie K. says:

    @Barbara, no one knows your child as well as you do. If you know you’re doing the right thing for your son, you most likely are. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise, especially if you see a change for the good. If the meds are helping him have a more normal life and function better in school, the meds are balancing his disordered brain chemistry.

    My son takes a very small dose of Zoloft also, and it’s helped him a lot. He was pulling his own hair! I don’t think the Zoloft causes weight gain, your son is probably just growing. My son has lost weight since he went off the Risperdal (he made a significant weight gain while on it), but I think the Concerta he takes for his ADHD also curbs his appetite. You have to measure the good against the bad and decide what’s best.

  13. suzanne says:

    My son who is nearly 17 was recently prescribed Risperdal 2 weeks ago to help with the symptoms of Aspergers to help with irritibility. It has been a nightmare. What a dramatic change in a child. Aggressive, challenging authority, sleepy, not wanting to get washed or change clothing. I was always led to believe that there was no medication that could be given to alleviate the symptoms of ASD. What is going on? Starting to worry about this. Have rang consultant several times and i am stilll waiting to hear from him. Appointment again is next tuesday 30th august. Feel that there is no end to this.

  14. Susan says:

    My own son screamed bloody murder around the clock for 5 days before I stopped the Risperadone trial. He was inert on the couch to the point where he wet it.

    I empathize, nightmare is the only word for it.

    I personally don’t believe anti-psychotics should be used for autism. They thought my son was psychotic, but he actually had severe anxiety that veered into OCD. The “voices” were intrusive thoughts he couldn’t shut out.

    Has your son been tested for food allergies? My son had severe undiagnosed food allergies and after that was addressed his life improved remarkably.

    Good luck to you…SM

  15. Patrick says:

    Just to add to the voices saying “everybody’s different”, my daughter is on the spectrum, and due to very violent outbursts we’ve had to keep trying different meds. We finally got to the point where there was nothing left to try but Lithium about a month ago, and the change has been amazing. She is by no means “doped” — she’s happy and sad in a normal, 12-year-old kind of way. It’s actually possible to get her to do chores now without her hiding under her mattress.

    It’s really pretty amazing, and I’m praying that it holds (because we are kind of at the point where the next step is institutionalizing her.)

  16. Susan says:

    I’m glad it’s working for her, and hope it continues to.

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