|Medications and Side Effects|
Before deciding whether medication is right for your child, it’s important to understand what the medication does and what its side effects are. Here we explain the medications that might be prescribed for the characteristics above. We’ll also go over the most common side effects of these medications.
- Hyperactive behavior
Ritalin and Concerta are prescribed to help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Research and test shows that they can also cut down hyperactive behavior in some of children with ASD. This might allow children to concentrate on a task for longer and think more before they act.
The main side effect of these medications is lower appetite. This can mean that children using them might not again enough weight or might even lose weight.
Other possible side effects include:
- More repetitive behaviors
- Increased anxiety
- Increased hyperactive behavior
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help lower anxiety, which we often see in children with ASD. These medications can also lower children’s obsessional behavior.
The most common side effects of SSRIs are:
- Tummy troubles (sick feelings and tummy pain)
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritable or nervous feelings
Teenagers and grown-ups can experience sexual dysfunction with SSRIs.
Children with ASD often have tics. Tics are jerky movements that happen over and over again, which children can’t really control. Tics usually happen in children’s faces or shoulders. Sometimes children will also grunt or clear their throats.
In some children, tics happen a lot and make them uncomfortable. If this is happening to your child, you might think about medication.
Several different medications can help cut down tics. These medications include antipsychotics and Clonidine. Clonidine can also help lower hyperactive behavior.
The side effects of antipsychotics include:
- Gaining weight
- Feeling tired or sleepy
Clonidine can make children feel very sleepy. In some children, it can cause a drop in blood pressure or heart rate. It’s also very dangerous if too much is taken, so the tablets need to be stored carefully.
- Aggressive behavior
Children with ASD can behave very aggressively towards other people. Sometimes they break or damage things as well. Some children also hurt themselves by hitting or head-banging,
The medication Risperidone can be prescribed to help reduce these behaviors. It belongs to a group of medications called atypical antipsychotics.
The atypical antipsychotics can cause serious side effects in some children. The most common are:
- Weight gain, which can sometimes be quite noticeable
- Feeling sleepy or tired
Less common side effects include:
- Stiff arms or legs, or jerky movements children can’t control
- Changes in a hormone called prolactin, which can cause breast development and milk secretion
- Changes in how children’s livers are working, how many fats they have in their bodies and how their bodies control blood sugar levels.
Many children with ASD either have trouble falling asleep or wake up often during the night.
The hormone melatonin makes us sleepy. It’s normally produced after it gets dark at night, and is made by a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland. Doctors can prescribe melatonin as a medication to assist people in falling asleep.
Children might feel sick or get headaches when they take melatonin, particularly if they have been taking it for a while. Some adults say they feel ‘hung over’ the next day after taking melatonin.
Up to one-third of people with ASD have seizures at some stage in their lives. Some people with ASD have a lot of seizures.
This problem can usually be treated effectively with one of the anti-epilepsy medications. There are many different anti-epilepsy medications, so the choice of the best one depends on the type of seizures. It will also depend on any other problems children have or other medications they’re taking.
Side effects vary with different anti-epilepsy medications. Common side effects include feeling sleepy, behavior changes and tummy troubles. Your doctor should give you information on the side effects that might occur with the particular medication your child is taking.