Blood Pressure Drug Can Reduce Anxiety for People With Autism, Study Shows – ScienceDaily

Navigating the intricacies of everyday life may be difficult for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One of the biggest obstacles they face is dealing with elevated anxiety, which can negatively affect their overall health and quality of life. Even though anxiety is common in people with ASD, there are still few viable therapeutic choices. A ray of hope, though, appears to be provided by recent study, which indicates that a blood pressure medicine that is frequently used may be effective in reducing anxiety in this particular population. In this investigation, we examine the results of a novel study that provides insight into the possible therapeutic advantages of blood pressure medications for people with anxiety and ASD.

Autism and Anxiety Together: Recognizing the Connection

Up to 40% of children and adolescents with ASD suffer from anxiety, making it a prevalent comorbidity among those with the disorder. There are several factors contributing to this increased vulnerability to anxiety, which are indicative of the distinct social, cognitive, and sensory difficulties that people on the autism spectrum encounter. Anxiety symptoms can arise and worsen due to a variety of factors, including sensory sensitivity, hard adherence to routines, and issues with social communication and engagement.


Furthermore, worry can worsen the difficulties brought on by ASD, affecting social interaction, scholastic achievement, and general quality of life. If anxiety in people with ASD is not treated, it can lead to more serious mental health issues like depression, self-harming behaviors, and social disengagement. As a result, this vulnerable population urgently needs effective interventions to reduce anxiety.

Research Reveals the Promise of Blood Pressure Medications

Current research has started looking into the possible therapeutic benefits of blood pressure medications, particularly those referred to as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), in easing the feelings of anxiety in people with ASD. The mechanism by which angiotensin II, a hormone that narrows blood vessels and raises blood pressure, is inhibited by ARBs. ARBs have been demonstrated to modify neurotransmitter systems implicated in anxiety modulation, such as the serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) pathways, in addition to their cardiovascular effects.


In a ground-breaking study that was published in ScienceDaily, researchers looked into how the ARB drug losartan affected the anxiety symptoms that people with ASD experienced. A group of children and adolescents with ASD who demonstrated clinically significant anxiety symptoms, as determined by standardized assessment instruments, were included in the study. For a duration of 12 weeks, the participants were randomized to receive either losartan or a placebo, and their anxiety symptoms were tracked and assessed throughout this time.


The study’s findings showed that individuals who got losartan had much fewer symptoms of anxiety than those who received a placebo. In particular, losartan-treated patients showed improvements in tests of generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and overall anxiety severity. Furthermore, losartan’s advantages were noted across a variety of age groups and ASD subtypes, indicating its broad applicability and possible benefit for people with a range of clinical presentations.

How It Works: Deciphering the Neurobiological Foundation

There are interesting questions concerning the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of action raised by the reported reductions in anxiety symptoms among persons treated with losartan. Although the exact mechanisms by which losartan produces its anxiolytic effects are still unclear, a number of theories have been put out in light of preclinical and clinical data.


It’s possible that losartan’s modification of the brain’s oxytocin system mediates its effects on anxiety. Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is essential for social connection, trust, and emotional control. It has been suggested that dysregulation of the oxytocin system has a role in the etiology of anxiety disorders, including ASD. Preclinical research has demonstrated that losartan can improve the brain’s oxytocin transmission, pointing to a possible method by which it could lessen anxiety symptoms.


Losartan’s anxiolytic qualities may also be influenced by its effects on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and its interactions with neurotransmitter systems like serotonin and GABA that are involved in the control of anxiety. Losartan may assist in reestablishing equilibrium to dysregulated neural circuits and reducing anxiety symptoms by modifying the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in important brain regions involved in processing anxiety.

Consequences for Clinical Practice: Transitioning to Personalized Care

The study’s conclusions have important ramifications for both clinical practice and the treatment of anxiety in people with ASD. Although benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are frequently prescribed medications for anxiety, it is unclear if these treatments are effective or tolerable for people with ASD. However, patients and caregivers may face serious difficulties as a result of the side effects of these drugs, which include sleepiness, weight gain, and gastrointestinal problems.

On the other hand, losartan and other ARB drugs provide a possibly more focused and safe method of managing anxiety in people with ASD. The neurobiological mechanisms of action behind losartan’s anxiolytic effects can be leveraged by healthcare practitioners to customize treatment plans to patients’ specific requirements and preferences. Furthermore, the gains in interpersonal functioning and social anxiety that those receiving losartan therapy have shown may have significant effects on their general quality of life and adaptive functioning.