While previous research has suggested that antidepressants like Prozac could help children with autism, a new study finds the drugs may be even more beneficial for adults with the disorder.

In what is believed to be the largest study yet to consider the impact of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, on adults with autism, researchers looked at 37 individuals ages 18 to 60 with the disability. Some were given a placebo while others took fluoxetine, which is sold under the brand name Prozac.

At the end of the 12-week study period, half of those taking Prozac showed a significant reduction in repetitive behaviors, such as arranging items in a particular way or maintaining a rigid schedule. This compared to compared to an 8 percent improvement in those taking a placebo.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Meanwhile, 35 percent of adults taking the drug showed overall improvement in their symptoms of autism. None of the members of the placebo group saw such a change.

“This study contributes to limited but promising empirical data supporting the increased use of SSRIs in ASDs,” the researchers wrote online this month in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

In particular, Eric Hollander of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his colleagues, who conducted the research, note that the findings suggest that drugs like Prozac could be more effective in adults with autism than children.

“Research on medications for the core features of autism spectrum disorders is still in the early stages, and successful treatments could greatly improve the daily lives of patients and their families,” he said.

While Hollander and his colleagues acknowledge that their study sample was small, they say that those taking Prozac only saw “mild to moderate” side effects like dry mouth, insomnia and headaches.