Blood pressure pill could help autism sufferers

Blood pressure pill could help autism sufferers
Photo by Garo/Phanie/REX (3829801bv)

Blood pressure drug propranolol has been found to ease some of the symptoms of autism

The pill, prescribed under the name of Inderal, is usually taken by people who suffer from high blood pressure but a new study has found that it can also improve life for those with autism.

Autistic people often have difficulty communicating and socialising with others, starting and participating in conversations, as well as suffering from a lack of empathy.

Scientists at the University of Missouri studied 20 volunteers and gave them either a 40mg dose of the propranolol or a placebo.

An hour later, they held structured chats with the patients and scored them on the six social skills deemed necessary to hold a conversation – topic, sharing information, nonverbal communication, shared conversation, maintaining eye contact and transitions or interruptions.

After comparing the results of the two groups, it was found that those on the propranolol had significantly better scores than those on the placebo.

“Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit of propranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with autism,” associate professor Dr David Beversdorf told the Daily Mail.

“Next, we hope to study the drug in a large clinical trial to establish the effects of regular doses and determine who would most likely benefit from this medication. Additional studies could lead the way for improved treatments for individuals with autism.”

A link between propranolol and autism was first discovered back in 1987, with researchers realising that the drug could improve the language skills of sufferers.

But that was not a controlled, randomised trial, and there has been little in the way of further research into this connection since then.

“This is the first study to show that a single dose of propranolol can improve the conversational reciprocity skills of individuals with autism,” Dr Beversdorf added.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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