, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 169-176

A case report of naltrexone treatment of self-injury and social withdrawal in autism

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Abstract

The endogenous opiate release theory of self-injurious behavior (SIB) was investigated through double-blind placebo-controlled administration of naltrexone hydrochloride (Trexan ®) to a 14-year-old autistic and mentally retarded male for treatment of severe SIB. Results yielded a marked decrease in SIB during two phases of active drug treatment, though SIB did not revert to originally observed placebo levels during a second placebo phase. An increase in social relatedness also was observed during phases of active drug treatment. Opiate theories of self-injury and the possible interrelationship of self-injury with pituitary-adrenal arousal and with social relatedness are discussed.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Melissa Duarte, Rachel Hoard, Pauline LeMieux, Barbara Marceau, Steven Raftery, and Abby Stein in the data collection. A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Boston, April 1989.