In a study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, and conducted over a number of sites, it has been found that the antipsychotic drug risperidone is a safe, effective treatment for children with autism who display tantrums, aggression and often self-injure.
Of the 101 children, 82 boys, and 19 girls, aged 5 to 17, in the study, it was found that treatment with risperidone resulted in decreased aggression, reduced repetitive behaviors and increased social interaction, and there were also limited side effects.
The study also found when the risperidone was discontinued after six months of treatment, a rapid return of aggressive and disruptive behavior was seen in most cases.
Dr. James McCracken, of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the study author, says a variety of treatments, including medication, are often used to manage aggressive behaviors in autistic children, but controlled medication trials are limited.
He says their findings support the addition of risperidone to the small arsenal of intermediate-term medication options for the tens of thousands of children with autism who display aggressive and destructive behavior.
He says that the response to risperidone ranks among the most positive for a drug treatment ever observed in children with autism.
The findings appear in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.