STIMULATING ADVICE FROM THOSE WHO TOOK THE “HYPOCRITIC” OATH
The Associated Press reports that an advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration recently decided that Ritalin should carry a “black box” warning because of a risk of death. At least 25 people ⎯ including 17 children ⎯ have died after taking Ritalin or similar stimulants that are commonly prescribed for ADHD.
What does this have to do with autism? Well, a lot actually. Specifically, this story helps to highlight the hypocrisy of one group of people who dare to criticize parents who attempt “alternate” biomedical interventions.
Let me note that this is a debate among those who acknowledge autism spectrum disorders as being medical conditions that, at least in some cases, require some form of medical intervention. Those who might argue that all forms of autism are nothing more than a cognitive difference not needing any medical intervention are certainly welcome to keep reading this post, but they might get a tad bored by this debate.
In essence, I am writing about the difference in approach between physicians who utilize methodologies such as the DAN! protocol on the one side, and physicians who would identify themselves as being “mainstream” doctors who recommend more “traditional” treatments on the other.
Most of us first heard the diagnoses of our children from the lips of mainstream practitioners. My wife and I had the experience of first hearing the diagnosis when our son was four years old. A self-described developmental pediatrician told us the situation was dire and we needed to immediately place our son in a special autism school, and that he needed to take Ritalin.
We were not too keen on that first doctor’s advice, although we did at least look into the school. My relentless wife, though, kept searching for better answers, and we wound up dipping our feet into the alternative biomedical waters by starting our son on a gluten-free/casein-free diet and supplements. But we didn’t completely abandon seeking more conventional solutions.
At great expense, we had a multi-disciplinary evaluation performed, including a pediatrician, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. The pediatrician and neurologist, in particular, were distressed that we would even consider “altie” remedies. The pediatrician opined, in no uncertain terms, that we were wasting our money at best and, at worst, we were risking our child’s well-being. His recommendation was that we get our four-year old son on Ritalin immediately.
It’s possible that the two “mainstream” physicians we spoke to were unusual in their advocacy for Ritalin, but I don’t think so. I’ve heard from too many other parents who had the same advice thrown at them to believe these doctors were unusual.
The doctors who recommended Ritalin are part of the same group that shout the loudest about chelation being a deadly and unproven intervention because it has never undergone safety trials for autism, and off-label use of medications and procedures is inherently dangerous. Yet what is it they wanted to prescribe?
The Associated Press story I mentioned above quotes one of the FDA committee members as saying “it would be ‘inappropriate, unethical behavior’ not to disclose that there was uncertainty about the safety of the drugs.” To me, that raises the question of whether adequate long-term safety testing has ever been conducted on these drugs.
Then, there is the issue of off-label Ritalin use. I know that many of us see autism and ADHD as being possibly related, but the mainstream medical community tends to consider them as totally distinct issues. Moreover, the warnings for Ritalin, even for its use in ADHD cases, include the advice that it “should not be used in children under six years, since safety and efficacy in this age group have not been established.”
So let me get this straight, reputable doctors tell me that I should not use any modalities that have not been proven safe, and yet they want to prescribe dangerous pharmaceuticals that are specifically contraindicated for young children.
I keep thinking about the 17 children who reportedly died while on Ritalin. I wonder how many other children died in cases where the connection just wasn’t considered. And I wonder how many of the dead children who were taking Ritalin got their prescriptions for autism. All that makes me wonder where the voices are of the self-appointed “quackwatchers” who screamed so loudly about the death of a child due to a botched chelation procedure.