Psychopharmacology of autism spectrum disorders: a selective review

Autism. 2013 Nov;17(6):645-54. doi: 10.1177/1362361312453776. Epub 2012 Aug 14.


While there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, psychopharmacologic agents are often used with behavioral and educational approaches to treat its comorbid symptoms of hyperactivity, irritability, and aggression. Studies suggest that at least 50% of persons with autism spectrum disorder receive psychotropic medications during their life span. This selective review examines recent studies about the use of psychotropic medications in persons with autism spectrum disorder. The aim was to focus on randomized controlled trials conducted from 1990 to 2010 on this topic. A comprehensive literature search was performed using PubMed and Cochrane databases. Out of 105 studies identified for the review, only 24 were randomized controlled trials. Thus, despite the common use of these medications in autism spectrum disorder, more controlled studies are needed to determine their long-term efficacy and safety.

Keywords: autism; comorbidity; psychopharmacology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / drug therapy*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants