Risperdal, or risperidone, is an antipsychotic drug commonly prescribed to aggressive, irritable children. Researchers have found that the medication is capable of calming kids with severe ADHD or autism. Although there’s a lot of evidence demonstrating Risperdal’s efficacy, some parents and health care professionals believe that the potential side effects far outweigh the risks.
Before giving your child Risperdal, you need to think long and hard about the consequences. Some parents say that their children would have been institutionalized if they hadn’t been prescribed the drug. Others, however, say their children’s lives were harmed.
Let’s review the facts.
What is Risperdal?
Risperdal is a second-generation antipsychotic originally intended to help patients suffering from schizophrenia. It works by temporarily blocking the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors. Over time, doctors began prescribing it to a broader base of patients. Risperdal has been shown to be particularly effective at curbing irritable, aggressive behavior.
A lot of the patients taking the drug are children.
“Right now, we prescribe it to nearly everyone because it works, just not in all kids,” Shafali Jeste, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said. “And there’s no way to predict which child will respond.”
Some children react badly, experiencing intense physical and emotional side effects.
What are the Side Effects?
Parents worry about their children taking Risperdal because the drug has a lot of side effects. In addition, Risperdal doesn’t actually cure anything. When the patient stops taking the drug, the original maladaptive behaviors are liable to return.
There are thousands of Risperdal lawsuits currently circulating through the courts. Families say that they were never told about the serious risks of taking the drug. A lot of young boys developed breasts as a result.
Risperdal and gynecomastia, or male breasts, are intricately linked. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology found that Risperdal is closely associated with gynecomastia in young men.
Further side effects include:
- Weight gain
Researchers have conducted a lot of studies exploring the relationship between weight gain and antipsychotics. In of them, Children taking Risperdal gained an average of 11 pounds in one month. Those taking larger doses tended to gain more weight.
- Neurological problems
Tardive Dyskinesia is a condition marked by involuntarily bodily twitches and tics. A child might start grimacing or rocking back and forth or sticking out their tongue. Repetitive sounds are also common.
- Severe hormonal issues
Too much prolactin in your blood is called hyperprolactinemia. Usually, prolactin prepares a woman’s breasts for her baby by stimulating milk production and causing them to enlarge. When this condition occurs in young boys, it causes gynecomastia and can damage their sperm.
Children taking Risperdal often report sleepiness or fatigue as a side effect. It can be so severe that they’re unable to keep up with their daily lives.
Who’s Taking Risperdal?
When a child’s behavior is out of control, a clinician might prescribe Risperdal. The drug helps calm violent impulses. Children who are prone to lashing out might benefit from a Risperdal prescription.
Medication is usually a parent’s last resort. However, many of the children taking Risperdal were a danger to themselves and others while they were untreated.
Are There Any Alternatives?
A clinician can choose multiple routes when treating an aggressive child. The choice can be made to forego medication altogether and focus on therapy and lifestyle changes. Some children act out because of their environment. For a lot of parents, a non-medicated plan is the only thing that makes sense.
If the clinician and the parents do decide that medication is the best option, there are other choices than Risperdal. Antidepressants or drugs like Ritalin are often prescribed. Those drugs have less severe side effects than Risperdal.
Of course, many treatment plans combine behavioral therapy with medication.
Speak with Your Doctor
Ultimately, the question of should your child take Risperdal can only be settled by you and your child’s physician. There are serious risks involved but you may decide that in your case, those risks pale in comparison to the advantages.
The medical community agrees that Risperdal can calm violent behavior in kids. It’s also true that the most serious side effects are rare. However, there’s no way to determine your child’s risk. You won’t know if your son is susceptible to developing gynecomastia until it’s too late.
If your child is prescribed Risperdal, they’ll need to be closely monitored throughout their treatment. Side effects should be reported to their doctor immediately.
When your child is lashing out and struggling to adapt, you have to try to figure out the best way to help them. It might mean medication. Or it might mean changing the family dynamics at home and attending therapy sessions.