Thursday, December 29, 2011

Clinic Notes: Ecstasy for Autism?

A few anecdotal reports have reported success in treating autism with marijuana. Proper investigational protocols were not followed and the therapist often got in trouble professionally and sometimes legally. Now the rave drug, MDMA better known as ecstasy is being suggested as a treatment for autism because reportedly it increases sociability, communication, and empathy in adult subjects with autism. The reported changes remained long after the drug had worn off. MDMA increases the level of vasopressin, a neurochemical known to mediate sociability, and oxytocin, a hormone that affects love and bonding. So pilot studies are being reviewed and should start soon. Interesting.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Clinic Notes: French Politics and the Treatment of Autism

In 1943, after American psychiatrist Leo Kanner published the first paper on autism, psychoanalytically oriented psychiatrists, blamed moms for autism. These so-called “refrigerator mothers”, who were emotionally cold and rejecting, caused a psychosis in their children which was similar to schizophrenia. (Very few autistic children actually develop adult schizophrenia.) Unfortunately, mothers at the time not only had to deal with an autistic child they also had to deal with their guilt. Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim wrote extensively about the relationship between emotionally distant mothers and their autistic children. In the 60’s, following the publication of Bernard Rimland’s Infantile Autism many psychologists, psychiatrists, and of course neurologists, thought biological factors caused autism. I had dinner with Bettelheim in the early seventies and I tried to discuss the role of biological factors in autism with him. He refused to accept the possibility and told me in no uncertain terms to go read his books. There I would find everything I find all of the answers about autism. At the time I thought he was a relic from the past and did not think about him until I read recently that in France Bettelheim’s legacy is flourishing. Parents of children with autism are offered psychoanalysis as treatment for their children with autism despite research showing that it is ineffective. Apparently, French politics is heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic community.