Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Alterntive autism treatment: pot?

Yet another warrior parent is bravely stepping out front to try new treatments for her son with autism.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee's 9-year-old son was so violent, aggressive and destructive that she describes it only as the "dark time". He would repeatedly scratch himself bloody and was continuously covered in scabs and wounds. The school was logging up to 300 aggressive episodes a day with teachers wearing protective padding on a regular basis just to deal with his violent tantrums. It had gotten so bad that the school was pushing hard for here to medicate him with a pharmaceutical, such as Risperdal, to calm him down.

Last year, Risperdal was prescribed for more than 389,000 children—240,000 of them under the age of 12—for bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism, and other disorders. Yet the drug has never been tested for long-term safety in children and carries a severe warning of side effects.

From 2000 to 2004, 45 pediatric deaths were attributed to Risperdal and five other popular drugs also classified as “atypical antipsychotics,” according to a review of FDA data by USA Today.

Disturbed by the reality of Risperdal, she decided to try something else. With the blessings of her doctor, she applied for and got a medical marijuana license and began to provide marijuana to her son and has been able to see and document the life changing difference.

She baked cookies and made a weak infused tea and has worked hard to find an appropriate dosage and way to administer that worked the best. But the direct evidence for her is how her son is reacting to the new treatment.

"Since we started him on his "special tea," J’s little face, which is sometimes a mask of pain, has softened. He smiles more. For the last year, his individual education plan at his special-needs school was full of blanks, recording “no progress” because he spent his whole day an irritated, frustrated mess. Now, April’s report shows real progress, including “two community outings with the absence of aggressions.”

An eloquent writer, Lee teaches at Brown University and is the author of the novel Somebody's Daughter, and is a winner of the Richard Margolis award for social justice reporting. She has been bravely writing about her first hand experience with this treatment and generously shares them here and here.

Her experience brings up some good questions for our "war on drugs" society. Why is it ok to pump pill after pill into our kids? And more pills to deal with side effects? We don't even really know what the long term side effects are going to be. Yet a mild natural herb is still taboo?

I am not saying every parent should try this for their child with autism but clearly Lee has found something that has helped her son. My hat goes off to her and to all warrior parents who try again and again to find something that will bring some relief for their child.

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