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At a glance: Typical antipsychotics
Type of therapy
The claim
Reduces aggressive, hyperactive and repetitive behaviour in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Suitable for
People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Research rating

Find out more about this rating system in our FAQs.

Not yet reviewed by our research sources.
Warning This medication can have some side effects including stiffness, restlessness and involuntary movements. These side effects can get worse and might become permanent if you use the drugs over a long period of time or take amounts higher than the optimal dose.

Estimate of the total time for family in hours per week and duration.

0-10 It takes very little time to take the medication, although treatment might be ongoing.

Estimate of cost to family per session/item or week

$0-30 The cost of this therapy varies depending on the type of medication used (that is, the specific brand of drug), whether the drug is covered by the PBS, the drug dose or strength, and whether you hold a concession card like a Health Care Card.

What are typical antipsychotics?

Typical antipsychotics are a group of drugs that are traditionally prescribed to people for psychotic disorders and symptoms like hallucinations, delusions and hostility. These drugs are also prescribed to control tics.

Some commonly prescribed typical antipsychotics for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are haloperidol, chlorpromazine and fluphenazine. These medications are also known as neuroleptics.

Who are typical antipsychotics for?

Anyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can use typical antipsychotics. Young children can use some of these medications.

What are typical antipsychotics used for?

Some people believe that typical antipsychotics can be used to treat some of the more difficult behaviour problems faced by people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including aggressive behaviour, severe temper tantrums, hyperactive behaviour, withdrawal and repetitive behaviour.

Where do typical antipsychotics come from?

Typical antipsychotics were first developed in the 1950s as treatment for serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers started testing typical antipsychotics for use with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as a possible treatment for behaviour symptoms. These tests showed some significant side effects. This led to the development of atypical antipsychotics, which have fewer side effects.

What is the idea behind typical antipsychotics?

Problems with brain chemicals called neurotransmitters can lead to increased activity in certain areas of the brain. This increased activity might underlie the behaviour symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The idea is that typical antipsychotics alter the way neurotransmitters work and therefore help to control behaviour symptoms.

What does the use of typical antipsychotics involve?

This therapy involves taking oral medication on a daily basis. The specific medication and dosage depends on individual symptoms.

This medication has a risk of significant side effects, so a specialist medical practitioner like a psychiatrist should monitor the child taking the medication. The child needs to have regular appointments with this professional, as well as regular health checks, including liver function tests.

Cost considerations

The cost of this therapy varies depending on the brand of drug used, whether the drug is covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the drug dose or strength, and whether you hold a concession card like a Health Care Card.

Do typical antipsychotics work?

This therapy has not yet been rated.

Significant side effects have been noted with the use of typical antipsychotics. These side effects include stiffness, restlessness and involuntary movements.

The risk of severe side effects increases if a person uses the drugs over a long period of time or takes amounts higher than the optimal dose. For this reason, long-term use isn’t recommended, and atypical antipsychotics have become a more popular option. Atypical antipsychotics might also be more effective.

Who practises this method?

GPs, paediatricians and child psychiatrists can prescribe typical antipsychotics and give you information about the potential benefits and risks of using them.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

If your child is taking typical antipsychotics, you need to ensure that your child takes the medication as required. You also need to monitor the effects of the medication.

Where can you find a practitioner?

It’s best to speak to your GP, paediatrician or a child psychiatrist about typical antipsychotics.

Go to Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists – Find a psychiatrist.

You could also talk with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.
  • Last updated or reviewed 01-08-2017