Brief Reports

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 439-446

First online:

Brief report: Open trial effects of beta-blockers on speech and social behaviors in 8 autistic adults

  • John J. RateyAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Jules BemporadAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Paul SorgiAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Peter BickAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Steven PolakoffAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Gillian O'DriscollAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School
  • , Edwin MikkelsenAffiliated withMassachusetts Mental Health Center, Harvard Medical School

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Abstract

We began open trials of beta-blockers, as adjunctive medication, in eight consecutive autistic adults. The immediate result across all patients was a rapid diminution in aggressivity (Ratey et al., 1987). As time on the drug increased, subtler changes in speech and socialization emerged. While results of open trials must be interpreted with caution, these changes were significant and lasting. We speculate that these effects may be the result of a lessening of the autistic individual's state of hyperarousal. As the individual becomes less anxious, defensive and dearousing behaviors are relinquished and more social and adaptive behaviors appear. There is a concomitant improvement in language, though it is unclear whether lost skills are recouped or new ones developed. Further research is indicated.