An update on pharmacotherapy of autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents

Ritu Goel, Ji Su Hong, Robert L Findling, Na Young Ji

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


To date, no medication is proven to be effective in treating core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Psychotropic medications are widely used to target emotional and behavioural symptoms in ASD. This article reviewed evidence for pharmacotherapy, novel therapeutic agents, and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in children and adolescents with ASD. Currently, only risperidone and aripiprazole have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of irritability associated with ASD in children and adolescents. However, associated metabolic side-effects are concerning. Evidence supports use of methylphenidate and atomoxetine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and clonidine and guanfacine ER appear to be helpful. SSRIs are poorly tolerated and lack evidence in reducing restricted repetitive behaviours (RRB), anxiety, and depression. Buspirone shows promise in the treatment of RRB. The evidence is inconsistent for the effectiveness of anti-epileptic medications. Recent studies of glutamatergic, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic, and cholinergic agents and oxytocin show inconsistent results. Despite wide use of CAM agents, the evidence is inconclusive. Melatonin can be helpful in reducing sleep problems. Overall, the evidence is limited for pharmacotherapy in children with ASD, and side-effects with long-term use can be burdensome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-95
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • children and adolescents
  • medications
  • paediatric
  • Pharmacotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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