Recent Updates in Psychopharmacology for the Core and Associated Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2021 Oct 13;23(12):79. doi: 10.1007/s11920-021-01292-2.

Abstract

Purpose of review: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by core deficits in social communication and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. This article aims to review the recent literature pertaining to psychopharmacology for the core and associated symptoms of ASD including social impairment, repetitive behaviors, irritability, and language impairment.

Recent findings: Recent medication trials targeting social impairment in ASD have focused on neuropeptides (oxytocin and vasopressin) and memantine. None of these three medications has demonstrated consistent benefit for social impairment in ASD; however, additional studies are underway. Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) provide evidence against the use of SSRIs for repetitive behaviors in youth with ASD. Preliminary studies have investigated cannabidiol (CBD) for irritability in ASD but further studies are needed to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Finally, three double-blind, placebo-controlled studies provide preliminary evidence for folinic acid for the treatment of verbal language deficits in children with ASD. The identification of safe and effective pharmacological treatments to ameliorate the core and associated symptoms of ASD has proven difficult.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Irritability; Language impairment; Psychopharmacology; Repetitive behaviors; Social impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood
  • Psychopharmacology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors

Substances

  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors