The Autism Medication Maze
Parents of children with autism will invariably face difficult decisions regarding their
children’s best course of treatment. Among the most agonizing of these, is the decision to use prescription
drugs to treat their condition. Against the backdrop of spiraling cases of autism, anti-psychotic medications, once reserved for schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses, are being used more and more to treat autism.
recently reports that an emerging study conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago confirms long held suspicions
— that atypical anti-psychotic medications such as, Seroquel, Abilify, Zyprexa, and Risperdal are
not proven to work and can even lead to serious side effects, including substantial weight gain in the first three months of
use and a much higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Involuntary and permanent muscle spasms are also common after prolonged use.
And an article in The New York Times
states that federally financed drug research reveals that children covered by Medicaid are given powerful anti-psychotic medicines at a rate four-times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. Medicaid children are also more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions in lieu of individual and family therapy. Anti-psychotics are extremely expensive and Medicaid reimbursement rates are much higher
than traditional therapies.
Every major drug company selling atypical anti-psychotics has settled lawsuits in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Anti-psychotics also garner the single most complaints for false claims. But as anti-psychotics are one of their top grossing category of drugs, pharmaceutical companies obviously consider them well worth it.
When weighing the risks of anti-psychotics for autism versus the benefits, it is difficult to see
the value. And from someone who was lead down the garden path of consenting to a Risperdal trial for my son with autism, my advice is to avoid them altogether.
Standing in stark contrast to anti-psychotics is low-dose naltrexone (LDN). LDN was pioneered by the neurologist Bernard Bihari in the early 1980s, when he was studying medications used for drug and alcohol withdrawal. Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, which means that it blocks opioid receptors in the brain and thus eliminates the feeling of pleasure caused by the addictive substance.
But Bihari noticed that very small doses of naltrexone (initially 3 mg, a fraction of the normal dose of at least 50 mg) taken at bedtime only blocked the opioid receptors temporarily, which stimulated the body to produce more of its endogenous opioids,
while producing no significant side effects.
The diseases treated with LDN typically involve abnormally low levels of endorphins. Restoration of normal levels of endorphins by LDN have the effect of reducing pain and increasing mood, energy and an individual’s general sense of well-being.
Additionally, studies conducted by Dr. Jaak Panksepp of Washington State
University and Bowling Green State University have found that over half of
children with autism treated with LDN increased their social skills as a result.
Since 1985, low-dose naltrexone has been used “off-label” to treat a range of conditions sharing immunity dysfunction such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome,
fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, AIDS and autism.
LDN is currently not FDA approved because only pharmaceutical companies can afford the
multi-million costs of drug trials, and those companies are not interested in marketing a drug that costs only forty-dollars a month.
Dr. Jacqueline McCandless, famed autism expert, recommends LDN to her patients on the autism spectrum for immune system
modulation as well as social, cognitive, and language enhancement. Non-toxic, non-addictive, non-expensive, LDN can be taken orally or as a transdermal cream. Common side effects are initial sleeplessness and hyperactivity, which can be addressed by taking it just before bed in an already drowsy state or rubbing it into your
child’s skin as they sleep. In a small percentage of cases, children develop cold symptoms when beginning LDN, but
then recover quickly.
At a time when over 7 million children are on Ritalin and psychotropics, and Electroshock Therapy
is being promoted for wider use among youngsters on the spectrum, LDN is a ray of sunshine cutting through dark
clouds of medical treatments for autism.
I’m not impartial on the subject. My son has been using LDN for over a year now. Coupled with diet, supplements, and anti-inflammatory medicine, it
has sent his Crohn´s Disease into remission and markedly improved his symptoms of autism.
His physician, prescribed it for him through a compounding pharmacy.
A Google search will render LDN providers in your area.