Autism is a complex behavior disorder with no explainable cause or effective treatment. The exact number of adults suffering from autism is not known because many individuals remain undiagnosed.
Autism spectrum disorders are associated with core symptoms like trouble communicating and relating to others, repetitive and compulsive behaviors, lack of socialization and very limited interests. The majority of people affected develop rigid routines or rituals, and repetitive movements, which may range from hand wringing, rocking or head banging.
All currently available drug treatments are only used to control behavior but none can cure the disorder.
Now there is a study, which claims that Prozac (fluoxetine) may be useful in controlling the repetitive and compulsive behavior in adult autistic patients.
In this latest study by Eric Hollander, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine almost 50% of autistic adults who were prescribed Prozac showed marked decrease in their repetitive behaviors.
The same group of researchers had earlier shown that Prozac was also effective in reducing these repetitive behaviors in children with autism. However, it appears that not all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are effective, since another study showed that the antidepressant, celexa (citalopram) had no affect on autistic behaviors.
Dr. Hollander explained how the medication may improve core symptoms of autism in adults, effectively making drastic differences in their lives.
Antidepressants have been used to control mood in adults with autism but their benefits on repetitive behavior have never been studied before.
In this study, the dose of Prozac started at 10 mg and went as high as 80 mg per day. Most adults tolerated the drug, and 50 % showed a marked change in behavior. Another positive benefit of the drug was that with the decrease in negative behaviors, this also resulted in an improvement in the quality of life for the patient and family members.
Another approved drug for the treatment of agitation and irritability in autism children is the antipsychotic, Risperdal; and this drug has also been shown to improve core symptoms in many autistic patients. The question now is which drug is better? This won’t be known until studies to compare the drugs are done in future.