What are psychotropic drugs doing to children with autism?

Emmilie Buchanan-Whitlock

Rob Gorski believes in science and and the power of modern medicine. Despite his research, Gorski still wrestled with the idea of medicating his then 6-year-old autistic son, Gavin. What it ultimately took, Gorski said, was a leap of faith.

For parents like Gorski, a resident of Canton, Ohio, the choice to medicate a child is a difficult one, and as the father of three boys with autism spectrum disorder, he should know.

The gap between parents who do medicate their children and parents who don't is growing wider, thanks to new research about the uncertain future of mediating autistic children published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study found that a large percentage of children are being treated with psychotropic drugs or mood-altering drugs like stimulants or antidepressants.

According to the study that examined insurance records of 33,000 children on the autism spectrum from 2001 to 2009, 64 percent had been prescribed and filled a mood-altering, or psychotropic drug.

The concern behind prescribing drugs like this is a simple one: experts don't know what the drugs do. There is no evidence for the safety and effectiveness of these drugs, according to the study.

The retrospective research, released last month, also found 35 percent of the sample had been prescribed and filled two mood-altering drugs from different classes.

Psychotropic drugs are categorized into classes because of their widespread use in the mental health field. They are categorized into stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood-stabilizers and anxiolytics.

The same study showed that 15 percent of autistic children in the sample had been prescribed and filled prescriptions from three classes.

Perhaps more concerning is that even less research exists about the effects of prescribing multiple psychotropic drugs, according to the study.

Read the full article here

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