Antipsychotic Drug May Help Stuttering
As a result, Maguire conducted a study involving 12 men and 4 women with the developmental form of stuttering, ranging in age from 20 to 74. To be eligible, participants had to have started stuttering before age 6, still stuttering on at least 3% of their syllables. They also could not be undergoing speech therapy for their stuttering. Some of the participants were given Risperdal; others took a placebo.
Those study participants who took Risperdal were started on half a milligram nightly, with the dosage then increased to a maximum of 2 milligrams. "We used doses one-twelfth to one-third the typical dose used for schizophrenia," says Maguire.
At the end of the six-week trial, the Risperdal group had improved on all measures of stuttering severity, while the other group showed no improvement. The participants reported few side effects.
Daniel Kroll, MD, director of the Speech Foundation of Ontario Stuttering Centre, says he is encouraged by the study's results. "While [Risperdal] has been shown to be effective in decreasing the severity of stuttering, its long-term effectiveness and safety requires further study," says Kroll, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Maguire says it's not clear why Risperdal works and agrees that a much larger study is needed. But even then, he won't be ready to announce that it's a wonder drug for stuttering.
"We're not talking a cure by any means, and I'm not foolish enough to say it will take the place of traditional speech therapy," says Maguire. "I think it might prove to make the usefulness of speech therapy better."
Funding for the study came from Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, the makers of Risperdal.