Autism Research: Use of Clonidine for Behavioral Control in an Adult Patient with Autism

Research for Clonidine as an Autism Treatment:

Lettor to the Editor Describes Clonidine as an Autism Treatment to Control Periodic Aggression
Case Study Describes the Use of Clonidine as an Autism Treatment to Control Occasional Aggressive Outbursts

Clonidine has been studied in the context of controlling hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors in individuals with autism.  A case study published in 1994 suggested another use of Catapres (clonidine) as an autism treatment.  The doctors describing the case study had seen benefit from prescribing clonidine to control periodic aggressive behaviors in a woman with autism.  Their case study was published as a letter to the editor titled Use of Clonidine for Behavioral Control in an Adult Patient with Autism.

The woman had been on several medications to help control her symptoms.  Unfortunately, she was still experiencing occasional episodes of severe aggression.  Attempts to adjust her medication doses led to increased occurrences of aggression.  This led the physicians to initiate clonidine.

Benefits of Clonidine as an Autism Treatment:

The doctors suggest that treatment with clonidine resulted in the following improvements:

  • Improved behavior
  • Decreased aggressive outbursts
  • More alert
  • More verbal

The case study also describes an experience when her clonidine patch fell off.  They report that this resulted in an episode of increased violence.  The authors suggest that other than this experience the patient maintained improved behaviors while on clonidine.

The letter to the editor was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in November of 1994.

Additional Information:

List of Research for Catapres (Clonidine) Use in Autism

Clonidine Autism Treatment Research List

2008 Research

Use of Clonidine in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Open-label, retrospective study
  • Included 19 children with autism spectrum disorder
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating insomnia, hyperactivity, inattention, mood disorder, and aggressive behaviors

1994 Research

Use of Clonidine for Behavioral Control in an Adult Patient with Autism

  • A case study
  • Describes the experience of a 26-year old autistic woman with occasional aggressive behavior on clonidine
  • Briefly discusses a possible mechanism of action of clonidine for controlling aggression

1992 Research

Clonidine Treatment of Hyperactive and Impulsive Children with Autistic Disorder

  • Placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study
  • Included 8 male children with autistic disorder
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity

A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism

  • Double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study
  • Included 9 males with autism
  • Focused on efficacy of clonidine in treating stereotyped body movements, self-stimulation, hypervigilence, and hyperactivity

 

Additional Resources:

Autism Research: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism

Clonidine Research:

Efficacy and Safety of Transdermal Clonidine Study in Autistic Children
Research Studies Safety and Efficacy of Clonidine Patch to Treat Autism Behaviors

Research conducted prior to this study had shown that clonidine was effective in treating hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  However, little to no research had been performed to study the effectiveness of clonidine in treating hyperactivity, hypervigilence, self-stimulation, and stereotyped body movements in autism.  This study focused on the safety and efficacy of transdermal clonidine (i.e. a clonidine patch) in treating those behaviors in autism.  The findings were published in an article titled A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of the Efficacy of Transdermal Clonidine in Autism.

The study utilized a double-blind, placebo-crossover design.  A total of 9 individuals with autism participated in the study.  Their ages ranged from 5 to 33 years.  The study group received 0.005 mg/kg/day of clonidine via a transdermal patch while the control group received a placebo patch.

The trial consisted of two phases, each lasting 4 weeks.  During phase 1 some of the participants received the clonidine patch while the remaining individuals received placebo.  A 2 week washout period then occurred in which none of the participants received clonidine.  During phase 2 those that had received placebo during phase 1 received clonidine and vice versa.

During each phase the participants were assessed on a weekly basis by parents and every other week by clinicians.

Clonidine Benefits:

The research demonstrated that treatment with clonidine resulted in significant improvements in responses determined by feelings/emotions, sensory responses, and social relationship to people as rated by the Ritvo-Freeman Real Life Rating Scale.  The researchers also reported significant improvements in severity of autism and overall global improvement as rated by the Clinical Global Improvement (CGI).  A global rating scale performed by patients also showed significant improvements with clonidine treatment compared to placebo.

Clonidine Side Effects:

Many patients reported feeling sedated and fatigued during the first 2 weeks of therapy with clonidine.

The researchers state that their findings suggest clonidine may be effective in decreasing hyperactivity, hypervigilence, self-stimulation, and stereotyped body movements in autism.  They also suggest that clonidine may improve social relationships in some individuals with autism.  Finally, they recommend that larger studies utilizing clonidine be conducted to determine the best dosing for optimal response in treating behaviors associated with autism.

The article was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in March 1992.

Additional Information: