Autism Research: Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder

Clonidine Research:

Research Involving Use of Clonidine for Impulsivity and Hyperactivity in Autism

Impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity often accompany an autism diagnosis.  These issues may prevent a child with autism from receiving the maximum benefit from behavior and educational interventions.  This study attempted to determine the effectiveness of clonidine for impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity in children with autism.  The findings were published in an article titled Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder.

The study included 8 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Each participant experienced impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity symptoms at a rate higher than normal for their age.  The study utilized a placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover design using clonidine as the treatment.  Teachers, parents, and clinicians rated different behaviors/symptoms observed in this study.

Clonidine Benefits:

The study found that hyperactivity, inappropriate speech, irritability, and stereotypy occurred less frequently during clonidine treatment according to teacher ratings utilizing the Aberrant Behavior Checklist.  The teacher ratings showed no significant improvements in attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity behaviors with clonidine use.  However, they did note an improvement in oppositional behavior during treatment with clonidine.

Parental ratings using the Conners Abbreviated Parent-Teacher Questionnaire showed significant improvement during treatment with clonidine.  The Conners Abbreviated Parent-Teacher Questionnaire includes areas of focus such as fidgeting, inattentiveness, excitability, impulsivity, restlessness, crying frequently and/or easily, quick mood changes, and temper outbursts.

However, clinician ratings failed to show any significant changes in behavior during treatment with clonidine versus treatment with placebo.  The clinicians assessed the treatment and placebo groups with several scales/tools including Clinical Global Impression, Anger and Speech Deviance factors, Children’s Psychiatric Rating Scale Autism, etc.

From these findings, the researchers state that clonidine showed moderate benefit for the short-term treatment of irritability and hyperactivity in some autistic children.

Clonidine Side Effects:

Clonidine side effects experienced during the study included increased drowsiness and decreased activity levels.

The article was published in October 1992 in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Additional Information:

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