Could a blood pressure drug thats been around since the 1960s help ease anxiety in people with autism?
That’s the main finding from a small study where 69 people between the ages of 7 and 24 who had autism were given the drug, called propranolol.
“The findings show that propranolol could serve as a helpful intervention for reducing anxiety for individuals with autism,” said study lead author Dr. David Beversdorf. He’s a clinician at the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment.
“This drug has been around since the 1960s and is very inexpensive,” he noted in a university news release. “Up until now, we haven’t had any known drugs that target psychiatric issues specifically for individuals with autism, so these results are very promising and can support future research.”
The study found that people who received propranolol had significantly lower anxiety levels at their three-month checkup.
Although the team also checked participants’ social communication skills, no benefits linked to use of propranolol were found.
Beversdorf said he’s seen firsthand the benefits of propranolol for people with autism who battle anxiety.
“As researchers, we try our best to improve the lives of our patients, and it feels rewarding to help out,” said Beversdorf, who is also a professor of radiology, neurology and psychological sciences at the university. “I went into the field of neurology knowing I wanted to try to find new treatment options and interventions to benefit people with autism.”
The study was published recently in the journal Psychopharmacology.
Find out more about autism at the National Autism Society.
SOURCE: University of Missouri, news release, Jan. 23, 2024
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