Should an Autistic Child be Using Risperidone?
Drugs may not be the best of choices for Autism, but from time to time, certain medically approved concoctions, including Risperidone, can come in very handy in helping regulate the lives of autistic children. An autistic child's life revolves around many a problem that neurotypical children do not display to such degrees, including unexpected insomnia, extreme picky eating, explosive meltdowns, violence, high levels of hypersensitivity, etc.
Parents of autistic children truly have their work cut out for them. Between problems with potty training, strangely violent behavior during haircuts, battles to brush teeth and disruptive behavior that could be caused by a certain diet, exhaustion is not far behind from one's doorstep. A genetic disorder by consensus, autism makes our children special but it also makes the home more chaotic than it should be.
Drugs of Choice to Control Autistic Behavior
Turning to drugs, the main ones of choices include Risperidone. There are others as well, including aripiprazole and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), and other atypical anti-psychotics. Melatonin joins the ranks as a hormone supplement, making up for the possible lack that is found in most autistic children. There are pros and cons to every artificial aide used to control autistic symptoms, but are they worth the risk?
The Scoop on Risperidone
Risperidone is "pretty effective for reducing tantrums and self-injury," mentions the Clinical Psychiatry News portal. Yet, what many parents do not realize is that a child taking this drug will gain an average of 5.6 kg over a span of 6 months, twice as much as even physicians originally anticipated. Furthermore, stopping the intake of the drug might cause a relapse, with symptoms getting worse over time.
The drug is generally administered to teenagers and children 5 to 16 years of age who have autism, in order to regulate sudden mood changes, repetitive behavior, interaction difficulties, and problems with communication. Risperidone comes as a tablet, a liquid solution, or an orally disintegrating tablet, usually taken once or twice a day with or without food. It is recommended to miss a dose completely if you have forgotten about it and only remember when the time for the second dose comes around. Do NOT double dose.
- dry mouth/increased saliva
- increased appetite/weight gain/stomach pain
- dreaming more than usual
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- decreased sexual interest or ability
- vision problems/muscle or joint pain
- dry or discolored skin
- difficulty urinating
Does it Negatively Affect Cognition?
The answer is no if you ask the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. On the contrary, of the 29 boys and 9 girls with autism and severe behavioral disturbance with a mental age of ≥18 months, no performance decline in was found after an 8 week treatment with Risperidone. Performance on a task looking at number of correct detections and a verbal learning task looking at word recognition was actually found to be better when the children were on the drug, versus the placebo. Spatial memory tasks also saw some form of improvement. The doses used for this particular study ranged up to 3.5 mg.
Important Note: Risperidone is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of behavior problems in older adults with dementia. It may cause untimely death during treatment.
All in all, it is a good drug to use, so long as your autistic child does not show any side-effects (at which point you MUST inform a doctor) with no cognitive detrimental effects.