Showing posts with label Periactin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Periactin. Show all posts

Sunday 6 October 2013

Autism - Drugs and Supplements that actually do work

Following requests for more information about supplements and drugs that really do seem to help with autistic behaviours, I have updated my "Top Tips" page.  Here is the updated information for anyone who is interested.

You will find links to the science behind all these ideas in various posts on my blog.  Many of these are "off label" applications, since there are no treatments yet  licensed for autism.

From comments received, it is clear people want "supplements" because they are available without prescription.  The rules vary widely from country to country.  A supplement in the US may be a drug in the UK and vica versa.  Or even a drug in UK is a supplement in Germany.  Just do some research on the internet.
Since I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice.  Since your doctor does not read the autism research, he/she will probably not be able to help you.


Science established some time ago that oxidative stress plays a central role in autism.

There is one widely available antioxidant that is highly effective. It is called NAC  (N-Acetyl Cysteine) and is available without prescription via the internet (from Amazon for example) or many pharmacies.

The result is very dose dependent.  Some people take time to adjust to it, due to mild stomach irritation.  Most supplements come in 600mg capsules.  Two capsules has an effect, but the effect becomes larger as you increase to about 3g per day (i.e. 5 capsules per day).  You should observe a great reduction in obsessive behaviours within a few days.  Then new good behaviours should emerge quite rapidly.  Speech increases.

To read about this on the blog, go to the list of labels and click on GSH.

Neuroprotection and anti-inflammatory

The research is conclusive that there is chronic neuroinflammation in autism.  The anti-oxidant will contribute to managing this, but an anti-inflammatory agent that can reach the brain will give additional benefit.

This blog has highlighted research to show that widely used drugs called Statins have a secondary effect that reduces neuroinflammation.

The Statin I choose is Atorvastatin, but Simvastatin also looks a good choice.  In the UK Simvastatin is available without prescription.

I use 10mg Atorvastatin.  The behavioural improvement was visible within two days.  New behaviours involving initiative emerge.

To read about this just click on statins in the list of labels.

GABA Neurotransmitter

Research going on for 10 years in France has shown that the widely used diuretic Bumetanide reduces the level of chloride in the brain.  The high level of chloride causes the brain neurotransmitter GABA to malfunction in autism and babies with neonatal seizures.

The effect of taking 1mg of Bumetanide has a dramatic behavioural effect.  It improves the child's ability to control himself.  He appears more "present" and not in his own world, this results in more interaction with his peers and an improvement in mood and a general increase in happiness.  Speech increases.

To read about this just click on bumetanide in the list of labels.

Autsim flare-ups  -  over activated mast cell response to allergens

Violent episodes may sometimes be provoked by an allergic reaction caused by so-called, mast cells.  What in a typical child might just cause a runny nose or sneezing, may cause violent/aggressive behaviour in a child with ASD.

A cheap over the counter drug drug called Claritin, acts as an anti-histamine H1 antagonist, it will subdue the allergic reaction within a few tens of minutes.

Many people do not respond to a particular anti-histamine, if one does not work just try a different one.  Your pharmacist can suggest an alternative (levoceterizine for example).  The brand names vary by country.

If the child complains about creepy feelings on his/her legs this would be an indicator or this type of allergic reaction.

There are other serious behavioural causes of self injury, but if the child is normally well behaved and under self control, sudden outbursts may be being triggered by mast cells.  Read all about mast cell research here.

Lower Serotonin Levels 

High serotonin levels are a known biomarker of autism;  lowering them does indeed appear to reduce autistic behaviours.   
You can do this via diet.  Avoid food known to raise serotonin, for example bananas and caffeine.  A low carbohydrate, high protein diet is known to lower serotonin levels.  The Atkins (induction phase) diet and the Ketogenic diet are also known to lower serotonin levels.  You will know if it is working because lowering serotonin increases appetite, your child should put on weight.
The easier way is with a serotonin antagonist like Periactin, often prescribed in the US to underweight children.  Periactin is a first generation antihistamine drug, so it will cause drowsiness.  It is known to be antiserotonergeric.  It is available OTC in some countries.

Read the post on Serotonin here.

Increase acetylcholine levels
The story about acetylcholine is quite complex, and the full post about it is here.
To increase acetylcholine there are various options.  The drug options shown to be effective work by affecting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.  The two drugs shown to be effective in autism are Galantamine and Donepzil.  These are prescription drugs.
The same effect is possible using a nicotine patch, or even potentially by using nicotine gum.  One quarter of a 7mg patch applied for 6-8 hours is suggested by one US doctor.
The other method, that is sometimes combined with Donepzil, is to give the dietary supplement choline, which is widely available.

High potassium diet reduces sensory overload

If your child with ASD, like most, has a problem with sensory issues like sound, light, smell etc, there is a dietary solution.  Increase potassium in his/her diet - eat more bananas, oranges, kiwis, potatoes etc.  You can also use potassium + magnesium supplements.  If you live in the US, beware of these supplements, they are very weak.  A banana has 500mg of potassium,  US supplements contains up to 100mg, UK supplements are up to 200mg.  Magnesium plays a role as well, it is needed to maintain potassium levels.  I use a cheap French supplement with 500mg Potassium and 150 mg Magnesium, taken half AM and half PM.  Potassium supplements can irritate the stomach, but they do modify autistic behaviours for the better.
Potassium ion channels (like Kir 4.1) play a role in the brain in both ASD and epilepsy.  It is very complicated and still not fully understood, but it WORKS! 

Sunday 29 September 2013

Autism in Iran: Piracetam, Periactin & Pentoxifylline

This may sound like a very odd subject for my blog.
In 2002 US President George Bush first used the term “Axis of Evil” to refer collectively to Ian, Iraq and North Korea.  Later that year the then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton gave a speech entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil"; in it he added three more nations to be grouped together: Cuba, Libya and Syria. Finally, in 2005 Bush’s Secretary of State came up with “Outposts of tyranny” to refer to Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe.

Many readers of my blog are from the US and may think that not much good can be going on in Iran.  The reality is quite the reverse, at least in the field of autism.

In spite being under all kinds of economic sanctions, Iran has generated a substantial body of insightful research.  There are 75 million Iranians which is just under the population of Germany.  I do not recall seeing much German research into autism. 

One particular researcher, Shahin Akhondzadeh, has done several very interesting studies. His CV lists 128 research papers, including autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions.  He also writes about herbal medicine for mental health, which I know is popular among readers of this blog, so I included links to some of those papers.

Piracetam, Periactin/ Cyproheptadine & Pentoxifylline

Akhondzadeh is unusual in that he actual makes repeated clinical trials of existing drugs that the science shows could be effective.  In the case of autism he trialled three interesting drugs (with similar names):-

·        Piracetam

·        Periactin/Cyproheptadine

·        Pentoxifylline

Unfortunately his three trials combined them with an anti-psychotic.  But I think it is still interesting to look at the net impact of each of the three drugs.  I did just that.

You have to look at the data and compare the impact after 8 weeks to be consistent and you have to adjust for the fact that in the Periactin/Cyproheptadine trial at week 0 the placebo group was out of line with the trial group.
Net improvements:-
Piracetam                                        7 points on ABC

Periactin/Cyproheptadine           7 points on ABC

Pentoxifylline                                 3 points on ABC

This tells us that Piracetam and Periactin had the greater incremental impact over the antipsychotic and that the change was 7 points on the aberrant behaviour checklist (ABC).  The ABC is a symptom checklist for assessing problem behaviors in individuals ages 6 to 54. It is a 58 item checklist. There are five subscales: a) Irritability and Agitation b) Lethargy and Social Withdrawal c) Stereotypic Behavior d) Hyperactivity and Noncompliance and e) Inappropriate Speech.




I have written about this drug in my recent post on Serotonin.  Periactin is an old first generation H1 antihistamine that happens to have additional anticholinergic, antiserotonergic properties.  It is the effect on serotonin that appears to reduce aberrant behaviours in autism

Periactin is available OTC in the UK.  In the US it is sometimes prescribed to increase appetite.
The link to Akhondzadeh’s full study is later in the post.



Piracetam was first synthesized in 1964 by scientists at the Belgian pharmaceutical company UCB; struck by its apparent ability to boost mental functioning in even healthy individuals and by its safety, they coined the term nootropic to describe it and other substances. Piracetam (trade name "Nootropil") was launched clinically by UCB in the early 1970s, and currently is in use in many European countries.

Piracetam is a cyclic derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA.

Akhondzadeh writes:-

In addition to serotonergic abnormalities, the strongest evidence implicates the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems are important biochemical factors in autism. One current hypothesis is that autism is a hypoglutamatergic disorder. This hypothesis is based on neuroanatomical and neuroimaging studies and supported by similarities between symptoms produced by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists in healthy subjects and those seen in autism. If there is deficient glutamatergic transmission in autism, the most logical treatment would of course be a glutamatergic agent. In the treatment of schizophrenia, that has many similarities with autism either D-cycloserine (glycine agonist) or Piracetam showed promising results. Indeed, autism and schizophrenia have some similarities regarding the role of serotonin and glutamate in their pathophysiology.

Piracetam is a member of the nootropic class of drugs, which have cognition enhancing effects, it appears to modulate AMPA (a-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acids)-sensitive glutamate receptors positively and has been used in many countries in the management of dementia. Although its mode of action is not certain, it is said to protect the cerebral cortex against hypoxia and has been used following trauma or surgery and in a variety disorders including senile dementia and behavioral disorders in children. In addition, it is used in the treatment of dyslexia and some type of myoclonus in adults. Indeed. Piracetam is the most studied nootropic in children.

Piracetam was freely available in the US as a supplement until three years ago.  You will see on the web that people were using it, combined with another supplement called choline, to improve their mental functioning.  It had been shown to work in rats, as you can see in this trial.
In the Ukraine it seems that Piracetam has long been given as a therapy in autism.  No mention of choline.

The full study is listed later in this post.


Pentoxifylline is a drug that targets the immune system, well established to play a key role in autism.  It is a competitive nonselective phosphodiesterase inhibitor which raises intracellular cAMP, activates PKA, inhibits TNF  and leukotriene  synthesis, and reduces inflammation and innate immunity.

So it would be fair to classify it as an immunological treatment for autism.

It is hard to find much about Pentoxifylline and autism.  It was trialled in the 1970s in Japan.

Japanese Journal of Child Psychiatry, Vol 19(3), 1978, 137-144

Describes the successful use of Pentoxifylline (150–600 mg/day) with 3–15 yr old children with abnormal behaviour (e.g., self-mutilation, aggressiveness, and hyperkinesis) and with autism. It is noted that while the drug was effective in reducing symptoms of autism, developmental factors in the disorder should not be ignored. (English abstract)

Unfortunately I gave not found the full text version of Akhondzadeh’s study on this drug.

Autism in Iran

A paper actually entitled “Autism in Iran”, makes very interesting reading and was co-authored by  Akhondzadeh.


Links to my selection of Akhondzadeh’s Research


Herbal medicine and women's mental health


Autism spectrumdisorders: etiology and pharmacotherapy

Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Alzheimer’sdisease

Cyproheptadine in the treatment of autism 

Authors: GUDARZI S., YASAMYM. and AKHONDZADEH S Eur. Psychiatry, Vol.17, Year. 2002, Page: 230-231,    NO ABSTRACT

A Double-blind Placebo Controlled Trial of Piracetam


All three drugs would seem worthy of further investigation, but particularly Piracetam and Periactin.  Both seem to be widely used with children and were/are OTC.


Monday 23 September 2013

Autism Biomarkers – Serotonin: LSD, SSRIs & Cyproheptadine/Periatin

Researchers are always looking for biomarkers of autism as a diagnostic tool; I am more interested in biomarkers as an indicator of might be going wrong and hence, perhaps, an indicator of what to do about it.

Going back more than half a century, just such a biomarker was found.  Increased platelet levels of 5-HT (5-Hydroxytryptophan) were found in 30-40% of the autistic population.  5-HTP increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and so it was suggested that hyperserotonemia may be a factor in autism.

Hyperseratonemia (Serotonin syndrome)

Hyperseratonemia is not treated by reducing the amount of serotonin, rather by using a receptor antagonist that in effect blocks the serotonin effect.

SSRIs and other anti-depressants

Several classes of drugs target the 5-HT system including  anti-depressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, antiemetics, and antimigraine drugs, as well as the psychedelic drugs and empathogens.

In you live in the US, you will have heard of Prozac (vitamin P) which is a very widely prescribed anti-depressant.  It is in a class of drug called Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or SSRI.  Many autistic children in the US are prescribed SSRIs like Prozac. In Japan Prozac is illegal.

SSRIs are believed to increase the extracellular level of serotoinin by inhibiting its reuptake.  Excessive use of SSRIs is known to lead to hyperseratonemia.  If you are already prone to hyperserotonemia, like 40% of autistic kids, it would seem that SSRIs could be potentially dangerous drugs.

A good deal of research does exist on the use of SSRIs in autism and it pretty much shows that they do not do much good, (and they certainly can have nasty side effects).  Look at page 6, in the review paper below that included all kinds of drugs trialled in autism.

LSD and other serotonin antagonists

LSD is a banned substance in the US and Europe, but in the time before I was born, it was being used to treat autism.  LSD, among other things, is a serotonin antagonist.  There are indeed several papers published on its use in autism and other conditions.

I was quite surprised to see Ivaar Lovaas, the “father” of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) was merrily giving autistic children LSD at UCLA in the early 1960s.

These old studies are quite interesting and if you want more just click here.

I am not suggesting you take your child to Amsterdam, but if you look on Google you will see that adults with ASD are indeed using LSD therapy.

It now appears that after being banned from use decades ago, medical research with LSD has been restarted.

Fortunately, there are other serotonin antagonists that are available and will not land you in trouble.  The one that attracted my attention is Cyproheptadine or Periactin.

Cyproheptadine in Research

There has been just one study published on autism and Cyproheptadine and that was in 2004.  It is not exactly what we need, since it was being trialed as an adjunct therapy to haloperidol.  Haloperidol is an antipsychotic.

If you live in the US you will be familiar with Risperidone, which is another antipsychotic shown to be effective in autism. In the UK, only specialists such as child psychiatrists can prescribe risperidone for children with autism.  Risperidone can cause side effects like uncontrollable shaking.

So the trial was in effect to see the effect of the antipsychotic + Cyproheptadine vs antipsychotic + placebo.  This is not exactly what we want, but better than nothing.

As you will see in the charts below, the addition of Cyproheptadine did indeed make a marked improvement.  Sadly this research has not been followed up on.


Serotonin and Emotional Response

There was a recent study looking at how the emotional response of adults with autism was affected by lowering serotonin levels, I could not find the full version.


Elevated blood levels of serotonin may or may not be a “red herring” in autism research.  The evidence is far from complete and it is not going to be a magic bullet.  Nonetheless, I suspect lowering serotonin levels may have far more impact than those expensive high EPA Omega 3 pills many parents are feeding to their kids.

The latest research does actually indicate that genetic differences cause the high levels of 5-HT in autism.  100% conclusive research does not exist showing the value of counteracting this genetic difference.  A safe, cheap, serotonin antagonist, Cyproheptadine /Periactin does exist; and it is available OTC in some countries.

Autism gene variant causes hyperserotonemia, serotonin receptor hypersensitivity, social impairment and repetitive behavior

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Autism Flare-ups - News on Allergy Drugs

I wrote earlier posts about the role of histamine in summertime autism flare-ups.  I ended up using a combination of a regular antihistamine like Claritin with Ketotifen, which though also an antihistamine, is a partial mast cell stabilizer.
I recently found a very useful table which shows different regimens that can be used for just this problem:-

The table is from a paper, again by Dr Theoharides, called:
 Autism: an emerging ‘neuroimmune disorder’ in search of therapy

Rupatadine is a safe and cheap antihistamine mainly sold in Europe.  The science appears to show that it is more effective at stabilizing the mast cells involved in allergies than Ketotifen.

The problem I found with Ketotifen is that it has very little immediate effect, unlike Claritin, so I ended up using both.  By the looks of things, Rupatadine may indeed do the job of both.

The table also mentions Periactin, which is an old first generation antihistamine.  It has a secondary antiserotonergic properties.  It was trialed in Iran for autism, apparently with some success.

Not all antihistamines are the same and some have very interesting secondary effects.  It looks like science has given up on investigating this further, which is a pity; but you don't have to.