Common Antidepressant Not Effective in Treating Autism, Study Finds

Prozac, a widely used antidepressant, does not appear to be effective in reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors in children and adolescents with autism, according to a new study.

The research was conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and was published in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Administering Prozac to participants for sixteen weeks had little effect in reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors, the study found.

“More than half of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders are prescribed medication, with up to one third receiving antidepressants despite inconclusive evidence of their effectiveness,” MCRI pediatrician and professor Dinah Reddihough said.

The trial involved 146 participants between 7.5 to 18 years old, recruited from the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, and the State Child Development Center, in Perth, Australia. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either Prozac or a placebo.

Despite initial results showing some behavioral improvements, Reddihough said further analysis showed no major differences between the two groups. Nevertheless, she added that the drug might still be helpful for some children.

“If parents have any concerns about the use of fluoxetine, they should speak with their health professional before changing any treatment plan,” she said.

Approximately one in seventy Australians are diagnosed with autism, with the condition being four times more common among boys than among girls, according to Eureka Alert’s report. “The lifelong effects of the condition are a significant health disability burden for individuals and their families," Reddihough said. "Restricted, repetitive and stereotypic behaviors frequently interfere with everyday functioning and include ritualistic behaviors, unusual sensory interests, and difficulty coping with change, which often manifests as anxiety, irritability, aggression and self-injury."


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