What Is the Link between Drugs and Autism?


What Is the Link between Drugs and Autism?

In the first study of its kind, researchers have discovered a link between SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants and autism. If a pregnant mother uses an antidepressant drug such as Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, or Prozac, especially during the first trimester, the child is more likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder.

SSRI antidepressants are prescribed to treat depression and anxiety in adults, by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Evidence suggests that the use of an SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy may affect the unborn child’s development and ability to process and maintain proper levels of serotonin in the brain. Children with an autism spectrum disorder often have difficulty regulating and maintaining levels of serotonin in the brain. The following drugs have been linked to autism spectrum disorder:

  • PAXIL
  • PROZAC
  • ZOLOFT
  • CELEXA
  • LEXAPRO

The study, released in July 2011, found that after taking other autism risk factors into account, children who were exposed to SSRI antidepressants in utero were twice as likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder, and children who were exposed to SSRI antidepressants during the first trimester were four times as likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder.

Autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in 110 children in the US and 1 in 70 boys. It is the fastest growing serious developmental disease in the United States, and there is no cure. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) include the following disorders:

  • Autism: a neural development disorder marked by impaired social interaction, impaired communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behavior.

  • Asperger syndrome: Most similar to classic autism, except without the delay in language development.

  • Pervasive Developments Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): a developmental disorder that does not meet the criteria for autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

  • Rett Syndrome & Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: Other developmental disorders that sometimes fall within the autism spectrum.

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