Evidence Lacking For Antidepressants As Autism Treatment
Despite widespread use of antidepressants to treat those with autism, new research suggests the drugs may not be beneficial and could in fact harm individuals with the developmental disorder.
The new findings come from an analysis of seven clinical trials of the drugs fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), fenfluramine (Pondimin) and citalopram (Celexa), from the medical nonprofit The Cochrane Collaboration.
In five of the trials, which focused on children, researchers said they found no benefit for youngsters with autism who took antidepressants, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. In one case, however, a child taking Celexa experienced a prolonged seizure, suggesting that there could be some danger.
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Meanwhile, adults with autism appeared to experience some positive gains from the drugs, but the two trials focusing on adults did not include a large enough sample size to warrant recommending antidepressants as a course of treatment, the researchers said.
“We can’t recommend SSRIs as treatments for children or adults with autism at this time,” said lead author Katrina Williams of the University of New South Wales and Sydney Children’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia. “It’s important that doctors are open about the lack of evidence and explain any risks fully before prescribing these treatments.”
Though antidepressants are not specifically approved for use in those with autism, the drugs are frequently prescribed to treat the developmental disorder.