Naltrexone in Autistic Children: Behavioral Symptoms and Attentional Learning

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Abstract

Objective:

To assess critically the short-term efficacy and safety of naltrexone in autistic children and its effects on discrimination learning in the laboratory.

Method:

A parallel group design was employed. After a 2-week placebo baseline period, children were randomly assigned either to naltrexone or to placebo for a period of 3 weeks followed by a one-week posttreatment placebo period. Multiple raters and rating scales were employed in a variety of conditions. Forty-one children, all inpatients, ages 2.9 to 7.8 years, completed the study. Naltrexone reduced hyperactivity and had no effect on discrimination learning in the laboratory. There was a suggestion that it had a beneficial effect on decreasing self-injurious behavior. Untoward effects were mild and transient.

Conclusion:

In the present study, naltrexone significantly reduced only hyperactivity, and no serious untoward effects were observed. The effectiveness of naltrexone in the treatment of autism and self-injurious behavior requires additional assessment in a sample of children with moderate to severe self-injurious behavior. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1993, 32, 6:1283–1291.

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