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The Role of the Pharmacy in Autism Treatment

  • July 3, 2013
  • RPh on the Go

autism treatment Autism is a condition that is becoming more prevalent in youth, and often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in adolescents and adults. Finding proper treatment can be stressful, and early intervention is crucial to helping those with autism navigate life and learn social skills while getting the resources they need to succeed in life. While there is still a vast amount of research which needs to be done on autism, medical advances have lead to a breakthrough which shows how autism affects the pathways of the brain. Using diffusion tensor imaging, images were rendered of subjects who showed a marked difference in the formation of pathways that controlled social skills, self awareness, and more. Compared to their peers, the brain pathway development of those with autism showed a marked difference when viewed against the neurotypical participants in the research.

Pharmacists can suggest a wealth of treatment options to those with autism, or that have a loved one that has the condition. These include speech therapy, group therapy, and more. Enabling an autistic child to communicate, whether this is through verbal means or the use of technology such as an iPad or computer, can be beneficial. A pharmacy can make families aware of local therapy groups, playgroups, and social gatherings for children with autism to interact with others. Young adults and adolescents can also benefit from social gatherings with peers that have autism, forming bonds with children who may overlook their behavior that others may find odd. Some autistic individuals have a strong preference for certain foods, textures, or may benefit from certain therapies. Light therapy, weighted blankets, and other options are available.

Medication is sometimes prescribed to treat various symptoms in people with autism. Clinical trials with the drug arbaclofen showed some promise in reducing social avoidance behaviors, but ultimately ceased due to the drug underperforming. Parents and families of those involved in the trial are attempting to get the manufacturer to continue with their abandoned efforts to get the drug endorsed by the FDA, to no avail. Despite many families claiming that the drug had aided their children, the results were not statistically significant, thus the decision to discontinue the project. However, there are a variety of anti-anxiety medications that can be prescribed to those with autism, as well as medications designed to treat depression. Being aware of your customer’s unique situation is crucial, as is monitoring for any dosage changes or a missed refill. Often, patients may stop taking medication due to side effects, and the results of this can be dangerous to the patient. Withdrawal symptoms can range from nausea to suicidal thoughts or actions, and pharmacists should take care to discuss the possible effects of medication with their customers.

There have been many advances in the treatment and diagnosis of autism, and our understanding of the disease can only lead to improved quality of life for our customers. Those in the pharmaceutical field are better equipped to help customers than ever, given the progress made in medication, treatment options, and early intervention services available to people with autism.

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