Which medicines would help my child with Autism?

You may hear of some common medications which usually prescribed for children or individuals with Autism. Here are a few options which you can consider only after consulting your child’s doctor.


These drugs must be taken with caution and under supervision of a doctor only. Report any early signs of side effects to the doctor immediately.

Antipsychotic Medicines

They are used to treat irritability that is associated with behavioral problems like aggression, self-injury, temper tantrums and mood swings.

  • Risperidone and Aripiprazole are the only two US FDA approved medications for Autism.

  • They act on the chemical substances which carry signals across nerve connections- serotonin and dopamine- which have been found in abnormal levels in many individuals with autism.

  • The most common side effects of Risperidone and Aripiprazole include drowsiness, constipation, fatigue, hyperglycemia and weight gain. In some individuals, side effects like tremors, abnormal involuntary movement and rigidity have been observed.

Other Antipsychotic medicines used to control aggression and hyperactivity are Clozapine, Olanzapine, Quetiapine and Ziprasidone. These medicines are usually prescribed to older children or adults as they are associated with serious side effects. In some cases, when the symptoms are too severe or unresponsive to standard drugs, these medications may be required.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used for treatment in autism. They include drugs namely Fluvoxamine, Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Escitalopram and Sertraline.

  • Treatment with these medications may help decrease frequency of repetitive behavior and improve eye contact and social interaction.

  • Side effects of SSRIs include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite and weight changes, mania or hypomania, aggressive behaviour. Suicidal ideation has not been reported as a possible side effect in studies on SSRIs in autism.

  • Other drugs prescribed are Nortriptyline, Amitriptyline, Clomipramine, Desipramine, and Imipramine.


  • Drugs such as methylphenidate, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine belong to the category of stimulants which act on the dopamine system and are primarily used to treat hyperactivity and inattention.

  • However, adverse effects such as loss of appetite, sleep difficulties, irritability, emotional outbursts, anxiety, depression, headache, and diarrhea have been reported.

Mood Stabilizers

This group of drugs can be used to treat behavioral symptoms such as aggression, self-injurious behaviors, impulsivity and conduct disorder.


  • Antidepressants can be used to treat depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder in autism.

  • Mood stabilizers possibly used include substances like lithium, lamotrigine, valproic acid, carbamazepine, topiramate, oxcarbazepine and levetiracetam


  • Antiepileptics are usually prescribed to control seizures associated with autism.

  • A commonly used Antiepileptic in autism is sodium valproate.

  • This drug has also shown improvements in the various core symptoms such as hyperactivity, receptive language, affective instability, aggression, and social skills.

  • Side effects of these drugs are a major concern. Routine liver function tests should be performed before and during treatment. Monitoring the drug levels through regular blood tests may be required.

  • Other drugs used are levetiracetam, phenytoin, topiramate, carbamazepine, lamotrigine, clobazam, etc

  • Midazolam nasal spray may be prescribed to keep handy with parents for emergency or during travel.

  • Divalproex sodium, an antiepileptic, is also prescribed to control hyperactivity.

Glutamate antagonists

  • Glutamate antagonists used for autism are amantadine, memantine.

  • They lead to improvement in memory, hyperactivity, irritability, language, social behavior and self-stimulatory behavior.

  • Few patients were reported to have experienced adverse effects like worsening of autistic behaviors.

  • Some of the other adverse effects include nausea, diarrhoea, hyperactivity and irritability.


  • Medicines like melatonin are prescribed in case of disturbed sleep cycle.

  • Triclofos is helpful to put the child to sleep during travel and also for insomnia.

  • Promethazine and haloperidol can be used when child is extremely aggressive, violent, excessively hyperactive or undergoing any medical procedures.

  • These medicines have to be used very carefully and under the supervision of a doctor only.

  • The side effects can be excessive drowsiness, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, lethargy, etc.


Other Questions 

How can medicines help my child with Autism?

Are there any oral supplements that would help my child?

When would it be ideal for me to begin medically managing my child?

Is there anything more I can do for my child at home, in terms of medications?

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