Medications (also known as pharmaceutical drugs, medicines, or medicaments) can be loosely defined as chemical substances intended for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease. Some of these substances, such as piracetam, are also sometimes taken as nutritional supplements.
Many different kinds of medication are used to treat autistic people. These include but are not limited to: anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, hormones, immunoglobulins, psychostimulant medications and many others. None of these medications was initially designed specifically to treat autism, but instead target other conditions such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, ADHD and drug dependency.
There are various ways in which these medications can be classified, such as by chemical properties, mode or route of administration, biological system affected, or therapeutic effects. We have categorised them by the principal biological system affected because most medications designed to help autistic people target the central nervous system and it makes sense to group these together.
Medications are available in many forms including tablets, capsules, liquids, infusions and injections. The same medication may have several different brand names. For example, the antipsychotic haloperidol is marketed as Dozic, Haldol, and Serenace.
Research suggests that most medications have no effect on the core features of autism. However, some medications may have some benefits. For example,
Very little high-quality research evidence supports the effectiveness of most other medications for treating the other issues facing people on the autism spectrum
The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain plays a central role in the control of most bodily functions, including awareness, movements, sensations, thoughts, speech, and memory. The spinal cord carries signals between the brain and nerves in the rest of the body.
There are a number of medications which are designed to improve or repair CNS functions and many of these have been suggested as treatments for autistic people.
Those medications include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics and hypnotics, cholinesterase inhibitors, NMDA receptor antagonists, opioid receptor antagonists, and psychostimulants.
Please see Central Nervous System Medications
The cardiovascular system, also known as the circulatory system includes the heart, blood vessels and blood. The respiratory system includes the nose, mouth, sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs.
The two systems are responsible for ensuring the body receives an adequate supply of oxygen and that carbon-dioxide is expelled from the body.
There are a number of medications which are designed to improve or repair cardiovascular and respiratory functions and some of these have been suggested as treatments for autistic people.
They include antihistamines, antihypertensives, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.
Please see Cardiovascular and Respiratory Medications
The endocrine system is up of various glands such as the hypothalamus gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, pineal gland etc..
Glands produce and secrete hormones - chemical substances that regulate the body's growth, metabolism (the physical and chemical processes of the body), and sexual development and function.
Hormones travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function and mood.
Some people think that the hormonal system in some autistic people does not work properly and this causes or worsens some of the symptoms of autism.
They also think that some of those problems can be overcome by regulating (changing) the amount and action of those hormones.
In some cases this means taking additional quantities of a specific hormone (such as melatonin). In some cases this means taking medications (such as leuprolide) to reduce the amount and effect of the hormones (such as testosterone).
Please see Endochrine System Medications
The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body against disease and infections.
The medications in this section are all used to treat problems in the immune system. For example, antibiotics are used to treat, and in some cases prevent, bacterial infections.
Some people think that some of the core features of autism and some of the associated conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems, are caused by or made worse by a defective immune system. They believe that, by treating the immune system, they can bring about improvements in those other areas.
Please see Immunology and Infection Medications