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Monday, April 25, 2011

Indy Doctors Treat Autism With Alcoholism Drug

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis doctors are pioneering a new treatment for autism using a drug designed to help alcoholics. Dr. Craig Erickson and his colleagues at Riley Hospital for Children are using acamprosate to restore an imbalance of two chemicals in children with Fragile X, the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and the most frequent cause of autism. Zachary Van Dyke, 22, began exhibiting the classic signs of Fragile X, including avoidance and defiance, when he was a young boy. As he aged, the symptoms got worse. "He was violent, non-compliant with the rules," said his mother, Sherry Van Dyke. "He had a tendency to become very upset, wouldn't be able to calm himself back down." Although highly functional, Zachary's mom said she considered placing him in a group home until she learned about Erickson's study. "Within a week, we saw a complete turn around. He just became calmer. He was more verbal about just being nice, and he didn't lose his temper," Sherry Van Dyke said. "He didn't want people around him to be upset. It was a complete blessing." "(It) helped me," Zachary said. "(I'm) better, a lot better." Erickson and his colleagues are the only doctors in the country studying acamprosate as a treatment for autism. "Our research with the medicine is really in the early stages, but we have had a series of folks that have done quite well," he said. "It's working in him (Zachary), and they are very happy, and he's a case where he didn't respond to other medications." Doctors said the treatment appears to work, with no known side effects.

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