What are noradrenergic agents?
Noradrenergic agents are medications that regulate levels of a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline in the body.
Noradrenergic agents used to treat autistic people 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?
Where does noradrenergic therapy come from?
The first trials of noradrenergic agents for autistic people 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 body’s ‘fight or flight’ response when something stressful or frightening happens. When the body triggers the fight or flight response when it’s not needed, it can lead to anxiety and other issues.
Noradrenergic agents regulate the noradrenergic system. The idea is that they can therefore help reduce anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, aggression and self-harming behaviour in autistic people.
What does noradrenergic therapy involve?
This therapy involves taking oral medication on a daily basis. The specific medication and dosage depends on the 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.
The cost of this therapy varies depending on the brand of drug used and the drug dose or strength. It also depends on whether the drug is covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and whether you hold a concession card like a Health Care Card.
Does noradrenergic therapy work?
This therapy has not yet been rated. Some research suggests that some noradrenergic agents might help some autistic children manage specific problems, like anxiety, sleep problems, or hyperactivity.
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?
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 their 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 the 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.
There are many therapies for autism. They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for autistic children takes you through the main therapies, so you can better understand your child’s options.