Nearly 90% of children with autism are regularly prescribed anti-depressants as part of their overall treatment.
New research published this month in Archives of General Psychiatry, has found that the most prescribed drug to treat autism, Celexa, is nearly useless when compared to a placebo in children with autism, and the side effects are twice as bad.
The results of this nationwide trial have experts reconsidering the appropriateness of antidepressants overall, and other mind-altering drugs, used to treat children with autism spectrum disorders. Worldwide spending on drugs to treat autism is estimated to be between near $2.5 billion annually.
An estimated 1.5 million children in America have autism, a group of poorly understood developmental disorders characterized with communication and social interaction problems.
One of the hallmarks of the disorders is obsessive, repetitive behavior such as flapping one’s arms or hands or memorizing car marks and models, even severe sexual problems, long before puberty. When those routines are interrupted, severe tantrums can result.
Because very few medications have been tested on autistic children in large rigorous studies, doctors have looked to drugs that treat similar symptoms in other conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or attention deficit syndrome, as some vain hope for success. In particular, doctors were hopeful that some of these drugs might help with increasing serotonin levels, which are known to be deficient in children with autism.
But the medications will work only if the root causes of obsessive compulsive disorder and autistic repetitive behavior invokes the same biological pathways in the brain. This new study strongly suggests that they do not.
Dr. Bryan King, director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital and leader of the study, said he was “shocked” to find that Celexa didn’t help children. Not only was the placebo slightly more effective, but the drug’s side effects-such as impulsivity and insomnia, were at least twice as bad, the study found.
“I personally would have a healthy dose of skepticism about prescribing this drug,” King said.
The study underscores the value of evaluating drugs in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, which are considered the gold standard of medial research.
“We need more studies of this kind to advance research and guide clinical practice,” Dr. Fred Vokmar, Director of the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., wrote.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. King and several of his colleagues have received research grants and other funding from major pharmaceutical firms, including Forest Labs of New York, who has the licensing rights for Celexa.
So What Can You Do?
Read my articles about autism and the success we are having with natural therapies from Mother Nature.
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