What are noradrenergic agents?
Noradrenergic agents are medicines that regulate levels of a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline in the body.
Noradrenergic agents used to treat autistic people include antidepressants, medicines for high blood pressure, and medicines 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 who have anxiety, depression or high blood pressure.
What is noradrenergic therapy used for?
In autistic people, 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 autistic people were conducted in the early 1990s.
What is the idea behind noradrenergic therapy for autistic people?
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 medicine on a daily basis. The specific medicine and dosage depends on the child’s needs.
A psychiatrist or other specialist doctor should monitor the child who’s taking the medicine. The child needs regular appointments with this specialist.
Does noradrenergic therapy help autistic children?
This therapy has not yet been rated. Some research suggests that some noradrenergic agents might help some autistic children manage anxiety, sleep problems or hyperactivity.
Noradrenergic agents 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 medicine.
Who practises this method?
A GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist can prescribe noradrenergic agents. These professionals can also give you information about the benefits and risks of using noradrenergic agents.
Where can you find a practitioner?
Your GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist can prescribe noradrenergic agents.
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 noradrenergic agents, you need to ensure that your child takes the medicine each day. Your child’s specific medicine and dosage will depend on their needs.
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.
The cost of noradrenergic agents 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.