According to a press release, the atypical antipsychotic drug Risperdal, generic name risperidone, was approved in its oral disintegrating tablet form, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 as the first drug to be used to treat irritability symptoms associated with autism in children and teens.
Risperidone was first used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and the manic symptoms associated with bipolar disorder in adult patients and works by changing the way certain chemicals, also referred to as neurotransmitters, work in the brain. However, doctors often prescribe medications for reasons other than those specifically approved by the FDA. This is called prescribing a medication “off label”. So even though the FDA has just now given the approval to use risperidone on autistic children and teens, doctors have been prescribing Risperdal for years to treat certain disruptive behavioral symptoms of autism which include:
- Mood swings
- Intentional injury to self
- Temper tantrums
- Inappropriate speech
- Social withdrawal
What Are Atypical Antipsychotics?
Atypical antipsychotics are often referred to as second-generation antipsychotics. They have a tranquilizing effect that is very helpful in treating mental health conditions such as schizophrenia by blocking dopamine pathways without the risks of the serious side effects commonly seen with first-generation antipsychotics. These atypical antipsychotics include Clozaril, Geodon, Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Abilify.
Why Choose Risperidone?
Risperdal is one of the growing numbers of adult medications being used on children after safety has been established for such use. Risperidone was already being prescribed off label for children with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) to treat behavioral issues such as oppositional defiance, aggression, inattention, and hyperactivity. Risperdal was also being prescribed to treat other mental health issues in children, not including schizophrenia.
What Does This Mean for Children with Autism and Their Families?
As Risperdal can help to control certain behavioral issues, this will benefit the parents, family members, and other caregivers to those children and teens with autism. With behavior problems being under control, more time can be spent successfully on education and socialization, among other necessities that need to be learned and practiced to better function during adulthood.
Does Risperdal Have Side Effects?
As with any medication, there is always a risk of side effects. The most common side effect experienced is fatigue or drowsiness, which occurs in 50 percent to 75 percent of those who take risperidone. Other side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Excessive salivation
There is also a risk of side effects that are less common, including stiff muscles, tremors, fever, and fainting, among others.
Who Shouldn’t Take Risperdal?
This medication shouldn’t be taken by those with certain medical problems including PKU, seizures, or trouble with organs such as the kidney, heart, and lungs.
Risperdal will not cure autism, but this medication is effective in treating certain symptoms of this condition, which can approve a child and family’s quality of life.