What are GABAergic agents?
GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a neurotransmitter. GABAergic agents are medicines that affect the level of GABA in the brain.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepine are examples of these medicines.
Other common names for GABAergic agents are acid agents, GABA agents and gamma-aminobutyric agents.
Who are GABAergic agents for?
GABAergic agents can be used by people who experience anxiety, including autistic people.
What are GABAergic agents used for?
GABAergic agents are usually used to treat anxiety, panic disorders and seizure disorders.
Where does GABAergic agent therapy come from?
In the 1950s, scientists discovered that GABA is an important chemical in the central nervous system. GABAergic agents were developed to treat conditions related to the central nervous system, including the overactive ‘fight or flight’ response involved in anxiety and panic disorders.
The connection between GABAergic agents and autism has been studied since the late 1980s.
What is the idea behind GABAergic agent therapy for autistic children?
Some researchers think an increase in certain types of brain activity leads to symptoms like panic and anxiety. The idea is that GABAergic agents reduce brain activity by stimulating GABA production, which in turn helps people cope with feelings of anxiety and panic.
Autistic children often experience physical tension and anxiety, as well as decreased pain responses. It’s thought that GABAergic agents can control these symptoms in autistic children and reduce aggressive and impulsive behaviour.
What does GABAergic agent therapy involve?
GABAergic agent therapy involves taking oral medicine on a daily basis. The specific medicine and dosage depend on the individual child’s needs.
A psychiatrist or other medical specialist should monitor a child taking GABAergic agents. The child needs regular appointments with this specialist.
Does GABAergic agent therapy help autistic children?
It’s not yet clear whether GABAergic agents help with autism characteristics.
Barbiturates aren’t usually prescribed, because they cause drowsiness and can become addictive. Benzodiazepine can increase behaviour issues in autistic children or cause cognitive ‘dulling’ – for example, memory impairment and lack of motor coordination.
Who practises GABAergic agent therapy?
GABAergic agents must be prescribed by a GP, paediatrician or child psychiatrist.
These professionals can also give you information about the potential benefits and risks of using GABAergic agents.
Where can you find a practitioner?
Your child’s GP can refer you and your child to a paediatrician or child psychiatrist.
You can find psychiatrists at Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists – Find a psychiatrist.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is taking GABAergic agents, you need to ensure that your child takes the medicine as prescribed. You also need to monitor its effects and side effects and arrange follow-up visits with your child’s health professional to review the medicine plan.
The cost of this therapy varies depending on the medicine brand and its dose or strength. It also depends on whether the medicine is covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and whether you hold a concession card like a Health Care Card.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.