Can Steroids Help Cerebral Palsy?

Updated on May 4, 2020

Steroids are not generally used in the treatment of cerebral palsy (CP). Instead, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a better choice. These anti-inflammatory drugs can help ease the long-term, chronic pain many children with CP experience. 

If you work in medical or pharmaceutical sales, it is important to be aware of the different types of medications that can be used to treat cerebral palsy. In the United States, approximately 764,000 adults and children have been diagnosed with CP. In addition, roughly 10,000 babies are born with the condition each year. 

This guide to drugs that are used to treat cerebral palsy will help you understand how to best serve the needs of people with CP. 

Medications That Are Used to Treat Cerebral Palsy

These are the most commonly prescribed categories of medications used to treat CP. Keep reading to learn more about the effects of the condition that they can help ease.


Medications that can help ease the symptoms of choreoathetoid cerebral palsy include antipsychotic drugs like haloperidol and fluphenazine. The basal ganglia are a group of structures within the cerebral hemispheres that controls voluntary motor movements and cognition. These work by blocking dopamine’s effect on the basal ganglia, which helps to get involuntary movements under control. 


Anticonvulsant medications are also used to treat cerebral palsy. One drug that can help is Dilantin, which is also known as Phenytoin. Dilantin can be used to decrease electrical activity in the brain, so it is used to treat children with cerebral palsy who suffer from seizures. Anywhere between 25% and 35% of kids with CP experience seizures, so anticonvulsants can positively affect their quality of living. 


Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to people with cerebral palsy because many develop depression due to their condition. Some of the issues that can lead to depression include:

  • Their physical limitations
  • Issues with social isolation
  • Suffering chronic pain
  • Being dependent on others

Some of the antidepressants that are used to treat CP are Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. Some people have also responded well to Celexa and Lexapro. 


Antispastic medications are sometimes used to relax the muscles of people with cerebral palsy. They are so effective at controlling spasticity and reducing muscle tremors that they are often the first choice of treatment. Valium can be given orally to individuals with CP. Sometimes these medications are also delivered via an intrathecal baclofen pump or via Botox injections that target the affected muscles. 

Antispastic drugs can increase the range of motion in a person with cerebral palsy. They can also be used to help delay surgeries until the patient is more physically ready to handle the procedure. One major benefit of these medications is they can be used to improve an individual’s ability to participate in therapies they may otherwise not be able to take advantage of.


Anticholinergics are sometimes prescribed to individuals with dystonic cerebral palsy. This type of medication can be used to treat the muscle tremors, spasms, and stiffness that people with CP can experience. These drugs work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for giving signals to your brain cells. 

Stool softeners

Many children with cerebral palsy suffer from constipation. This is especially true for kids who are diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. When other possible solutions to constipation like the addition of whole grains and fresh vegetables to the diet aren’t effective, stool softeners are often prescribed. 

In addition to the use of medications, people with cerebral palsy are often prescribed a course of therapies and other treatments that can greatly enhance the quality of their lives. Understanding how these drugs can be used can help you to work with neurologists, pediatricians, and geneticists. 

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