Antipsychotics and Autism Ranking: Mildly Hazardous Unable to rate

Risks and Safety


According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2011), the side-effects of the older, typical antipsychotics can include:

  • stiffness and shakiness, like Parkinson’s disease
  • feeling sluggish and slow in your thinking
  • akathisia  (uncomfortable restlessness)
  • problems with your sex life.
  • tardive dyskinesia (continual movements of the mouth, tongue and jaw).

The side-effects of the newer, atypical antipsychotics can include:

  • sleepiness and slowness
  • weight gain
  • interference with your sex life
  • increased chance of developing diabetes
  • in high doses, some have the same Parkinsonian side-effects as the older medications
  • long-term use can produce tardive dyskinesia and, rarely, of the arms or legs.

In people on the autism spectrum

According to NICE (2013),

“There ... are robust data suggestive of adverse events associated with risperidone or aripiprazole, in particular, weight gain, prolactin concentration [which can cause various problems] and tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate). It is also important to note that these trials were run over short time periods and very little is known about the long-term effects of antipsychotic drugs in children and young people with autism.”

For details of the side effects of specific antipsychotics, please see our detailed website entries on those specific antipsychotics.


Some antipsychotics may be contraindicated (something which makes a particular treatment or procedure potentially inadvisable) in certain groups of people.  For example, MIND (2012) recommends that if you have any of the following, you should use antipsychotics with caution:

  • liver or kidney disease
  • cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease
  • family history of diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • epilepsy
  • depression
  • myasthenia gravis (a rare disease affecting nerves and muscles)
  • an enlarged prostate
  • a history of glaucoma, an eye disease
  • lung disease with breathing problems
  • some blood disorders.

According to Rethink Mental Illness (2012)

“Some antipsychotics can interact with tricylic antidepressants and so they should not normally be prescribed together. Due to the sedative effect of some antipsychotics, doctors should take care when prescribing sleeping tablets, tricylic antidepressants and benzodiazepines among other medications. There are a number of possible interactions between antipsychotics and other medications, so it is important that your doctor knows about all the medicines you are taking.”

For details of the contraindications of specific antipsychotics, please see our detailed website entries on those specific antipsychotics.

01 Nov 2017
Last Review
01 Nov 2016
Next Review
01 Nov 2019