What are noradrenergic agents?

Noradrenergic agents are medications that regulate levels of a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline in the body.

Noradrenergic agents used to treat people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include antidepressants, medications for high blood pressure, and medications to improve attention.

Other common names for noradrenergic agents include antidepressants (bupropion, reboxetine) and antihypertensives (clonidine).

Who are noradrenergic agents for?

Noradrenergic agents are typically used for people suffering anxiety, depression or high blood pressure.

What is noradrenergic therapy used for?

In people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), noradrenergic agents are used to reduce anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, aggression and self-harming behaviour.

Where does noradrenergic therapy come from?

The first trials of noradrenergic agents for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were conducted in the early 1990s.

What is the idea behind noradrenergic therapy?

In our bodies, the noradrenergic system is responsible for producing, storing and releasing noradrenaline, which activates the fight or flight response. The idea is that autistic characteristics are the result of problems in this system.

Noradrenergic agents regulate the noradrenergic system. They can therefore help reduce anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, aggression and self-harming behaviour in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

What does noradrenergic therapy involve?

This therapy involves taking oral medication on a daily basis. The specific medication and dosage depends on each child’s symptoms.

A specialist medical practitioner like a psychiatrist should monitor the child receiving the medication. The child needs regular appointments with this specialist.

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.

Does noradrenergic therapy work?

This therapy has not yet been rated.

These medications have some side effects. They include the possibility of developing a tolerance, which would mean increasing the dosage. Other possible side effects include drowsiness and high blood pressure when the person stops taking the medication.

Who practises this method?

A GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist can prescribe noradrenergic agents. These professionals can also give you information about the potential benefits and risks of using noradrenergic agents.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

If your child is taking noradrenergic agents, you need to ensure that your child takes the medication on a daily basis. Your child’s specific medication and dosage will depend on her symptoms.

You also need to watch your child for effects and side effects and take your child to regular appointments with the specialist who’s supervising his treatment.

Where can you find a practitioner?

Your GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist can prescribe this medication.

You can find a child psychiatrist by going to Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists – Find a psychiatrist.

You could also talk about this therapy 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.