The British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) has published Autism spectrum disorder: consensus guidelines on assessment, treatment and research from the British Association for Psychopharmacology.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder generally presenting as an early-onset condition with a deficiency of social communication accompanying restricted and repetitive interests or activities and sensory anomalies. Difficulties as a result of ASD are often lifelong and require ongoing support. In the UK, 29% of people with ASD are prescribed psychotropic medication (e.g. sleep medications, psychostimulants, antipsychotics) but 60% of adults with ASD have concerns with taking medication, for example due to side-effects or poor effectiveness.

Diagnosis of ASD can be difficult. Patients with ASD may present with co-occurring psychiatric disorders (between 69% and 79% of people with ASD experience another psychiatric condition in their lifetime) that can cause ASD to be overlooked, and presentation can vary between males and females. Treatment can also be complex, particularly with co-existing conditions.

The BAP guidelines include recommendations on the assessment and diagnosis of ASD and how best to manage it, covering:

  • aetiology and risk factors
  • diagnostic criteria
  • assessment and diagnosis
  • prevalence of co-occurring mental health difficulties in ASD
  • pharmacological treatment of core symptoms of ASD
  • pharmacological treatment of co-occurring conditions and symptoms in children and adults with ASD
  • non-pharmacological approaches for core symptoms of ASD in children and adults
  • service provision.