The Antipsychotic and Other Medication for Autism: What You Should Know

We all admittedly want what is best for our children, more especially for our Autistic loved ones. While some parents have been able to find solutions with diet changes or various supplements, others have found relief in medication. Antipsychotics and other medications can be a great way to help your child struggle with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms. This blog post will discuss antipsychotics and other medications for Autism, including the pros and cons of using such drugs in children.

What are antipsychotics, and what do they treat?

Antipsychotics are medications that treat psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. But Antipsychotics drugs can also help manage detrimental autism spectrum disorder (ASD) behaviors. Antipsychotic medications work by blocking the action of dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that carries signals between nerve cells (neurons). It helps control your mood, movements, thinking processes, motivation, emotions, feelings of pleasure, and pain and affects your attention span.

High levels of dopamine can result in hallucinations or delusions, whereas low levels will lead to depression. The antipsychotic medication works by reducing high dopamine concentrations, which improves people with schizophrenia, ADHD, or other psychotic disorders such as bipolar or autism spectrum disorder symptoms. They have been used since the 1950s but were initially developed only to reduce psychosis associated with schizophrenia (Peter et al. 2016).

Why is it essential to take Antipsychotic medication for Autism?

Antipsychotic medications are used in Autism treatment because they help reduce aggressive behaviors, manic outbursts, tantrums, and self-injurious behavior. They also can increase social responsiveness in children with Autism spectrum disorder or other mental health disorders.

They are also sometimes used to treat insomnia, irritability associated with Autism, or other mental health disorders. If your child exhibits these symptoms, your doctor could recommend antipsychotic medications as part of their treatment plan. (Fitzpatrick et al, 2016)

Antipsychotics can also help reduce repetitive behavior such as hand-flapping and rocking. (Young et al. 2002). It may not be the only solution for helping to decrease those behaviors. Still, it could help to massively regulate detrimental habits and improve sleep patterns or reduce anxiety, which often accompanies Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Do they cure Autism

Antipsychotics are not a cure for autism, but they can certainly help reduce some of the more challenging behaviors associated with this mental health disorder. Discuss all possible consequences and benefits with your child’s medical professional before deciding on treatment options involving atypical antipsychotic medications.

Which the FDA has approved medications to treat ASD in children?

There are two FDA-approved medications for ASD in children. One is called Risperdal, the brand name of risperidone. This medication was FDA-approved in 1993 to treat irritability associated with Autism. The other drug is called Geodon or ziprasidone hydrochloride. It was also supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001  and was used to reduce aggression among individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

This medication has never been explicitly tested on people diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder. Still, it is used off-label as a treatment option for some types of aggressive behavior seen in those living with Autism spectrum disorders, such as self-injurious or aggressive behavior.

Risperdal and Geodon are antipsychotic medications that similarly affect the neurotransmitter dopamine, but they work differently on serotonin, another chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) affecting moods and emotions. Risperdal blocks serotonin transmission (AFP, 2009) while Geodon works by increasing how much serotonin gets to the brain to be used effectively when treating aggression associated with Autism spectrum disorder symptoms.

Both drugs need to be monitored for side effects such as seizures, movement disorders including tardive dyskinesia (TD), weight gain, fatigue, dizziness, and headache. These behaviors could become more severe over time if not appropriately treated; however, most patients do well when taking these medications.

Are there another alternative to drugs

Unfortunately, there aren’t many other options available, at least not yet! For now, we will have to rely on medication to manage ASD symptoms that cannot be treated by behavioral therapy alone. If either of these drugs doesn’t help reduce symptoms after six weeks or side effects become too bothersome, your child’s doctor may suggest switching to the other medication.

 What side effects to expect when taking medications for Autism?

When it comes to medication, there will always be side effects that go along with them. Frequently, the benefits outweigh the risks associated. Still, this may not be true in some situations, so you should discuss all of your options thoroughly with a physician before making any decisions. Some potential side effects include weight gain or loss, dizziness and headache, nausea, and vomiting (Katsuya et al. 2011).

These medications can also affect heart rhythm, which is another reason they need to be monitored closely by a doctor. If you notice any severe changes such as seizures or movements that were not present prior, you should contact your doctor immediately! Also, make sure everyone who will care for your child, including babysitters, knows about their diagnosis and how important it is to watch for signs of any changes in behavior or unusual movements.

Do not abruptly stop taking an atypical Antipsychotic medication because it could lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which might even worsen behavior problems related to Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Instead, consult with your doctor about slowly tapering off the dosage.


Antipsychotic medication can help reduce some of the more challenging symptoms associated with Autism spectrum disorder; however, these drugs are not a cure. They are only one piece in what is often referred to as “the puzzle” because it takes an individualized approach using several different treatments and therapies to help improve the overall standard of life for someone living with ASD.

If you have any questions or concerns about antipsychotic medication for Autism, please consult with your doctor. They are the only person who will provide accurate information based on their knowledge of your child’s medical history and current needs.


Peter et al. (2016). First Antipsychotic Medication..
Fitzpatrick et al (2016). Aggression in Autism Treatment.
Young et al. (2002). A systematic review of atypical antipsychotic in Autism.
American Family Physician. (2009). Risperdal for mgt of Autistic Disorder.
Katsuya et al.(2011). Weight gain as a side effect of Ziprasidone (Geodon).


Last Updated on September 22, 2021