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Blood pressure drug can reduce anxiety for people with autism – study

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A drug prescribed to treat high blood pressure can also help lower anxiety for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research has found.

Given that some people with ASD tend to struggle with anxiety at a far greater rate than their neurotypical peers, the new finding could significantly help such individuals with ASD, researchers said.

The study was led by David Beversdorf, a clinician at the University of Missouri-Columbia Thompson Center.

The researcher said: “The findings show that propranolol could serve as a helpful intervention for reducing anxiety for individuals with autism.

“This drug has been around since the 1960s and is very inexpensive.

“Up until now, we haven’t had any known drugs that target psychiatric issues specifically for individuals with autism, so these results are very promising and can support future research.”

The study involved 69 patients over a three-year span.

Compared to a placebo group, patients who received propranolol showed significantly reduced anxiety levels at their 12-week check-up appointments while receiving the medication.

The research also examined if there were significant changes in the individuals’ social communication skills, but no significant changes were found.

As a practicing clinician, Beversdorf has seen first-hand the positive benefits propranolol can have in improving the overall quality of life for some patients with ASD and their families.

Beversdorf, who is a professor of radiology, neurology and psychological sciences as well as the William and Nancy Thompson Endowed Chair in Radiology, said: “As researchers, we try our best to improve the lives of our patients, and it feels rewarding to help out.

“I went into the field of neurology knowing I wanted to try to find new treatment options and interventions to benefit people with autism.”

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