Medication for Stuttering

Hi everyone, I am curious to hear about your opinions in using antianxiety medications as a method to treat stuttering. It seems today that medications are being used more often as treatment in comparison to therapy or holistic approaches. I have read a couple of research articles about the positive effects of using this approach, but I am curious to see how you all feel. Thank you.

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Medication for Stuttering — 2 Comments

  1. Several reviews have concluded that after many clinical trials there is no evidence of any worthwhile effects from drug therapy for stuttering, nor is there likely to be.

  2. Hi Dori – Over the years, there have been many studies of medications that may be useful for treating stuttering. I think that in general the findings have been less exciting than one might hope. I have been involved in some of these studies, and my personal experience as a clinician is simply that some of my participants felt that the medication helped them, and some did not. This is certainly not scientific proof, and the overall results of the studies were not overwhelmingly positive. (The results were actually quite subtle – not as easily dismissed as some might suggest, but not as positive as others have hoped.) I know that some of my participants were disappointed with the study concluded, because they did feel that the medication was useful. (This is for a trial med that is no longer available in any form.) This is not to say that their stuttering was cured; it’s instead that they felt *some* better.

    You may be aware of the work of Dr. Gerald Maguire – he has been the leader on this issue, with many publications and studies exploring different types of compounds that may offer help for some people.

    My personal opinion on this is simple: Given that prior studies have shown that some medications appear to have some effect for some people, it is worth continuing the research. Will there ever be a medication that helps all people all of the time? I doubt it, but those people who do get some relief will be quite appreciative of that relief. To my mind, that makes it worthwhile from a clinical standpoint (and, of course, to the pharmaceutical company, the potential market makes it worthwhile from a financial standpoint). Thus, even if the results are not yet as compelling as we might hope, there is ample reason for the work to continue.

    Note that I am primarily thinking here about medications that are specifically focused on stuttering, not simply the use of general anxiolytics or SSRIs for stuttering. Studies of those medications for stuttering have been underwhelming… Yes, people may feel less anxiety, but that does not appear to have any direct effect on their speech. The goal would be a medication that affected both the speech and the anxiety (as needed), and that, alas, has remained elusive thus far.

    But, looking for new answers is why we do research, and so I would not simply dismiss the idea out-of-hand.

    My thoughts, for what their worth.


    J Scott Yaruss, PhD, CCC-SLP
    University of Pittsburgh