Does Effexor help with autism? (3+ facts)

In this article, we will discuss the effectiveness of Effexor in treating autism and explore alternative medications used to treat autism. Additionally, we will discuss the side effects of Effecox and review relevant research studies that investigate Effexor’s impact on individuals with autism. 

Does Effexor help with autism? 

Yes, Effexor can help treat the symptoms associated with autism. Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder which can affect how a person communicates, learns and behaves. (1)

Symptoms of autism include difficulty with social communication, repeating behaviour, hyperactivity, aggression, irritability, attention problems, anxiety and depression. (1) The signs and symptoms of autism vary among individuals. 

Effexor is an antidepressant which acts on neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. An increase in these neurotransmitters helps improve anxiety, depression and cognitive functioning. Effexor can be beneficial in treating cognitive dysfunction associated with autism.

How does Effexor help with autism? 

The mechanism of Effexor in treating symptoms of autism involves increasing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the presynaptic terminal. Effexor blocks the transporter proteins and inhibits the reuptake of these neurotransmitters. 

When the amount of neurotransmitters at the synapse increases, it leads to an increase in transmission. An increase in serotonin receptors helps treat problems with memory, learning ability, sleep and mood. Increased dopamine levels help with social cognition and behavioural dysfunction. 

What does the research suggest?  

A study done by Hollander et al. on the effect of Effexor (venlafaxine) in a population ( aged 3-21 years) who were diagnosed with autism showed that a low dose of venlafaxine was effective in treating repetitive behaviours, restricted interests, social deficits, communication, language function, inattention and hyperactivity. (2)

A randomized, double-blind trial was conducted to check the efficacy of venlafaxine 18.75mg/day in patients with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. The study revealed that venlafaxine had a significant impact on alleviating the symptoms of autism. (3)

In clinical practice, three patients with autism showed positive results when venlafaxine was given. Severe behavioural symptoms and aggression in a 17-year-old boy and autism hyperactivity in a 17-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were reduced when they were treated with 18.75mg/day of venlafaxine. (4)

What are the alternate therapies used to treat autism? 

 Here are some alternate therapies which can be used to treat autism. 

Pharmacological therapy: (5)

Autism cannot be cured, but there are medication which helps to manage the symptoms of autism and improve a person’s quality of life. 

  • Atypical Antipsychotics: Risperidone and aripiprazole are used to treat symptoms such as irritability, which is associated with autism. FDA approves these medications for children above 5-6 years of age and in adults. Other antipsychotics, such as olanzapine, lurasidone and ziprasidone, were also found to be helpful in treating autism symptoms. 
  • Typical antipsychotics: Haloperidol (0.25-4mg/day) is beneficial in treating hyperactivity, aggression, withdrawal, and behavioural symptoms and improves learning in patients with autism. 
  • Antidepressants: A few SSRIs, such as fluoxetine, citalopram, fluvoxamine, and escitalopram, showed positive effects in repetitive movements and irritability associated with autism.
  • Mood stabilizers: Divalproex sodium improved repetitive behaviours in autism-diagnosed patients. 
  • Stimulants: Methylphenidate has shown positive results in treating autism symptoms. 

Non-pharmacological therapy: (5)

  • Behavioural and applied behavioural analysis (ABA) therapy: This therapy aims to improve communication, social skills and learning skills. It is structured to improve specific behaviours by breaking down the tasks into smaller and manageable ones. Various techniques are used to create positive behaviour and reduce negative behaviours. 
  • Speech and language therapy: This therapy enhances verbal and non-verbal communication. The healthcare provider implements good communication skills along with language comprehension, expression and pragmatic language. 
  • Occupational therapy: This therapy aims to improve independence and functioning in daily activities by developing fine motor skills, self-care routines and sensory integration. 
  • Social skills training: Helps improve social interaction and relationships by teaching appropriate social behaviours such as eye contact, taking turns while talking and understanding social cues. 
  • Developmental therapies: Therapies such as floortime (DIR/Floortime) and relationship development interventions can help the patient improve social skills, emotions and cognition.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This therapy helps improve coping skills and reduce challenging behaviours. CBT helps identify and modify negative thoughts and behaviour. 
  • Educational intervention: Individual education plans (IEPs) and structured teaching (TEACCH) are designed to help students with autism meet their needs. 

Can Effexor be used in the long-term treatment of autism? 

Effexor can be used for the long-term treatment of autism. However, long-term use of Effexor is associated with side effects. In a study, Effexor treatment was given to the study participants for 5 months in which 60% of the participants responded to venlafaxine and adverse effects such as behavioural activation, nausea, inattention and polyuria were reported. (5)

Effexor (venlafaxine) has also shown great safety and tolerability in long-term treatment for depression when compared with other antidepressants. (7) The side effects of Effexor vary between individuals.

What are the side effects associated with the use of Effexor? 

While Effexor is an effective medication for treating certain conditions, it is important to note that it may cause side effects in some individuals. Here are a few side effects caused by Effexor: (5,6)

  • Nausea
  • Inattention
  • Polyuria
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Hypotension/Hypertension
  • Anorexia
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

How to use Effexor effectively?

Here are some general tips for using Effexor effectively: 

  • Ensure you take the dose of Effexor as prescribed by your physician, and do not make any adjustments to your dosage and schedule without consulting your physician.
  • Take the medication at the same time each day to maintain a consistent level of drugs in your system. Do not forget to take your dose of Effexor. 
  • Do not crush, chew or break the capsules, as it may affect the release of the medication. If you are facing any GI disturbance, take the tablet with food. 
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated; it will help clear any toxic metabolite from your body quickly. 
  • Be patient, as the effect of Effexor is seen after 2-4 weeks of treatment. 
  • Do not stop the medication abruptly since it causes withdrawal symptoms and worsens your condition. 
  • Avoid alcohol and limit your caffeine intake, as it may decrease the effectiveness of the medication.
  • Seek medical help if you notice any unwanted changes while taking medication.


In my perspective, Effexor is significant and beneficial in treating symptoms of autism. It is important to undergo a thorough evaluation and receive proper treatment for your condition under the guidance of a physician to avoid any harm.

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National Institute of Mental Health. Autism spectrum disorder. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 2023. Available from:,Overview,first%202%20years%20of%20life.


Hollander E, Kaplan A, Cartwright C, Reichman D. Venlafaxine in children, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders: an open retrospective clinical report. Journal of child neurology. 2000 Feb;15(2):132-5. Available from:


Carminati GG, Gerber F, Darbellay B, Kosel MM, Deriaz N, Chabert J, Fathi M, Bertschy G, Ferrero F, Carminati F. Using venlafaxine to treat behavioral disorders in patients with autism spectrum disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2016 Feb 4;65:85-95. Available from:


Carminati, G.G., Deriaz, N. and Bertschy, G., 2006. Low-dose venlafaxine in three adolescents and young adults with autistic disorder improves self-injurious behavior and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)-like symptoms. Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry30(2), pp.312-315. Available from:


DeFilippis M, Wagner KD. Treatment of autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents. Psychopharmacology bulletin. 2016 Aug 8;46(2):18. Available from:


Singh D, Saadabadi A. Venlafaxine. [Updated 2022 Oct 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:



Shrivastava RK, Cohn C, Crowder J, Davidson J, Dunner D, Feighner J, Kiev A, Patrick R. Long-Term Safety and Clinical Acceptability of: Venlafaxine and Imipramine in Outpatients: With Major Depression. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology. 1994 Oct 1;14(5):322-9. Available from:

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