Medications For Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. The disorder is complex, and the symptoms and severity vary from person to person. Currently, there is no cure for autism, but medications are used to manage some of the symptoms of the disorder.

Types of Medications Used for Autism

The medications used for autism are divided into two categories:

  • Medications for co-occurring conditions
  • Medications for specific symptoms of autism

Medications for Co-occurring Conditions

Many individuals with autism have co-occurring conditions that require medication. These conditions may include:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Sleep Disorders

Some of the commonly used medications for these conditions are:

ADHD Medications

Many children with autism also have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Medications used to treat ADHD can also be used to treat symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention in children with autism. Some of these medications include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
  • Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine)
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)

Anxiety Medications

Individuals with autism may experience symptoms of anxiety, and in some cases, medication is used to manage these symptoms. Some of the medications used to treat anxiety include:

  • Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax)
  • Buspirone
  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and other antidepressants

Depression Medications

Depression is a common co-occurring condition in individuals with autism. Some of the medications used to treat depression include:

  • SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Elavil, Norpramin)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

OCD Medications

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that affects many individuals with autism. Medications used to treat OCD include:

  • SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Sleep Medications

Many individuals with autism struggle with sleep, and medications are sometimes used to address this problem. Some of the medications used to treat sleep disorders in individuals with autism include:

  • Melatonin
  • Clonidine (Catapres)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)

Medications for Specific Symptoms of Autism

Medications can also be used to manage specific symptoms of autism, including:

  • Aggression and self-injurious behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Attention and concentration problems

Aggression and Self-injurious Behavior

Aggression and self-injurious behavior are challenging symptoms of autism. Medications used to manage these symptoms include:

  • Atypical antipsychotics (Risperdal, Abilify, Seroquel)
  • Beta blockers (Propranolol)
  • Anticonvulsants (Depakote)
  • SSRIs and other antidepressants


Hyperactivity is another common symptom of autism. Medications used to manage hyperactivity include:

  • Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall)
  • Beta blockers (Propranolol)
  • Clonidine (Catapres)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)

Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors are another common symptom of autism. Medications used to manage these behaviors include:

  • SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft)
  • Atypical antipsychotics (Risperdal, Abilify)
  • Naltrexone
  • Memantine (Namenda)

Attention and Concentration Problems

Attention and concentration problems can also be a symptom of autism. Medications used to manage these symptoms include:

  • Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall)
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)

Concerns About Medications for Autism

While medications can be effective in managing some of the symptoms of autism, there are several concerns about the use of medication in individuals with autism:

  • Side effects
  • Risk of addiction
  • Cost
  • Non-medication alternatives

Side Effects

Medication can have side effects, and some individuals with autism are particularly sensitive to these side effects. Side effects can include:

  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia or drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors

Risk of Addiction

Some medications used to manage symptoms of autism can be addictive. These medications include stimulants and benzodiazepines, and they require careful monitoring and management to prevent addiction.


Medications can be expensive, and some individuals may not have access to the medications they need due to financial constraints or insurance limitations.

Non-medication Alternatives

Non-medication alternatives can be effective in managing some of the symptoms of autism. These alternatives include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise
  • Sensory integration therapy
  • Alternative therapies (e.g., acupuncture, chiropractic care)


Medications can be an effective tool in managing some of the symptoms of autism, but they are not the only option. Individuals with autism and their families should work with healthcare professionals to determine the best course of treatment, which may include a combination of medication and non-medication alternatives.


FAQs about “Medications for Autism”

1. What are the common medications used for managing autism?

Some of the common medications used for managing autism are antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and stimulants. These medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with autism, such as anxiety, self-injury, and aggression, among others.

2. Are medications the only treatment option available for individuals with autism?

No, medications are not the only treatment option available for individuals with autism. Autism is a complex condition, and different individuals may require different interventions. Behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy are some of the other treatment options for autism that can help improve social communication, behavior, and adaptive skills in individuals with autism.

3. Are medications for autism safe?

Like any other medication, medications for autism come with potential side effects, and it is essential to discuss the benefits and risks of medication use with a qualified healthcare provider. However, when used as prescribed and monitored regularly, medications can be safe and effective in managing challenging behaviors and symptoms associated with autism.


1. Bishop-Fitzpatrick, L., Minshew, N. J., & Eack, S. M. (2013). A systematic review of psychopharmacological interventions for adults with autism spectrum disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 21(6), 298-312. doi:10.1097/HRP.0b013e3182a75e92

2. McPheeters, M. L., Warren, Z., Sathe, N., Bruzek, J. L., Krishnaswami, S., & Jerome, R. N. (2011). A systematic review of medical treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 127(5), e1312-e1321. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0427

3. Stigler, K. A., Diener, J. T., & Kohn, A. E. (2011). Pharmacologic treatment of irritability in pervasive developmental disorders. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, 12(9), 1431-1440. doi:10.1517/14656566.2011.578492