Ritalin May Ease Autism-Linked Hyperactivity

Ritalin May Ease Autism-Linked Hyperactivity

Ritalin May Ease Autism-Linked Hyperactivity

Researchers stress findings are preliminary

Ritalin, commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also shows promise in the treatment of hyperactivity in children with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders, according to a preliminary study.

The study of 72 children, aged 5 to 14, examined whether Ritalin (methylphenidate) could reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness in youngsters with pervasive developmental disorders. For four weeks, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, in Indianapolis, gave children one of three doses of the drug or a placebo.

Thirteen of the children withdrew from the study due to side effects. Forty-four of the children who showed positive responses were treated for another eight weeks to ensure that their improvements were stable. Parents and teachers were asked to help assess the children's responses to treatment.

Reporting in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, the team found that Ritalin was consistently more effective than placebo in improving the children's hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention and distractibility.

"At present, methylphenidate is a reasonable choice to target hyperactivity in the context of PDDs (pervasive developmental disorders)," the study authors wrote.

However, they also caution that these findings are preliminary, and results may vary from child to child.

"Caregivers should be cautioned about the strong possibility of adverse effects," the researchers added. "In addition, practitioners should be prepared to suspend treatment if considerable adverse effects are reported. Further secondary analyses are planned to better delineate individual responses."

The study was funded by grants from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Indiana University and other academic or governmental sources.

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