Dangers of Autism cures

As Autism awareness month ends, social media is still active with alleged autism cures.

To be clear, THERE IS NO CURE for autism, and there IS NOTHING TO CURE.

A recent report by NBC highlighted one of the dangerous “cures” pushed on social media. This is not the only “treatment” supported online. In this blog I’ll look at the most common cures, then look at why they are dangerous.

Chlorine Dioxide autism cure

Chlorine Dioxide (ClO2) is also know as industrial bleach. In cure groups you’ll see it listed as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS). Yes, the same bleach you use to clean toilets and bleach paper is being pushed as a “cure” for Autism.

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for chlorine dioxide (CD) list the following health issues for bleach exposure.

Selection of the MSDS for bleach
A selection of the effects of the MSDS for bleach. Screen capture by Author.

I’ve had water treated with bleach on camping trips. It tasted terrible, and my stomach was upset for a few days afterwords. That was bleach watered down to a safe level for treatment. Many of the chlorine dioxide treatment protocols call for straight full strength CD to be administered.

This treatment is abusive and dangerous to everyone. Bleaching your child will result in GI damage. Forcing CD into your child’s body (orally or rectally) show how much you as a parent are scared about Autism.

Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy is cursed to be both a legitimate medical treatment and a favorite for anti-vaccine quacks.

As an emergency medical treatment it’s used to treat emergency exposure to toxic levels of mercury, like in lab accidents.

Anti-vaccine advocates love using chelation therapy to try to remove evil government-mandated vaccines from their body. While thiomersal has been cited disproved as a cause of Autism, the anti-vaccine crowd still loves trying to remove Mercury (Hg) from their child’s body. Thiomersal was removed from the MMR vaccine in 1999, and the level of Hg in even that was 15% of the average daily mercury intake in the US for adults and 2.5% of the daily level considered tolerable by the WHO (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_hesitancy)

Anti-vax proponents often have a vested financial interest in selling desperate parents chelation products, making them a dangerous self promoter.

Parents that force their children to use this treatment are at best just wasting money for a non-medical issue. Chelation therapy has a whole host of side effects including

  • Burning sensation when injected into a vein 
  • Fever and chills 
  • Headache 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Convulsions or seizures 
  • Fall in blood pressure 
  • Breathlessness or tightness in the chest 
  • Respiratory failure 
  • Low blood calcium 
  • Irregular heartbeats or cardiac arrhythmias 
  • Severe allergic reactions may occur with the use of some chelators and lead to skin rash, eczema, exacerbation of asthma or asthma attacks. 
  • Severe hypersensitivity reactions may lead to anaphylactic shock and even death. 
  • Depression of the bone marrow leading to low counts of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This can lead to anemia, infections and an increased bleeding tendency. 
  • Kidney damage and failure leading to end stage renal disease requiring dialysis. 
  • Liver damage may be seen with some chelating agents and some patients may develop liver failure. 
  • Damage to the brain leading to a decline in cognitive function 
  • Vitamins and vital nutrients may leave the body along with the heavy metal. This can be a particular problem among children who require adequate levels of nutrients for normal growth and development. In addition, vitamin supplements may not always replenish the loss of vital nutrients caused by long term chelation therapy. 
  • -https://www.acsh.org/news/2017/08/08/chelation-therapy-fad-treatment-real-risks-11667

Chemical Castration

I was horrified to find this as even an option on the internet. The idea that by castrating your child you cure autism reeks of eugenics. Yet the use of Lupron (a sex hormone) has been pushed by quacks to cure autism. I struggle to find the logic of attacking the undeveloped reproductive system of a child who has a neurological difference with Autism.

If you do this you are denying your child’s future, and saying to them “Sorry, because of your autism you are not fit to bear children”. Forcing this on children violates their reproductive rights. It also is done without the consent of the child, which violates law and medical ethics.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)

I’ve seen HBOT in a few facebook groups as a way to treat autistic meltdowns and improve social functioning.

Hyperbaric therapy is commonly used to treat divers with the bends and burn victims.

Like chilation therapy it is cursed to be legit and abused by autism cure quacks. HBOT is expensive, and the hyperbaric chamber can be scary for children as they sit in a pressurized metal tube for hours at a time.

While this may hurt children’s ears, accidents in hyperbaric chambers also happen. In a high oxygen environment, fires and sudden decompression can be fatal.

Detox Autism Cures

The detoxifying your body craze is alive and well in social media. The idea that by taking a magic vitamin cocktail cures autism is alluring to desperate & scared parents.

Other times these detox cures are advertised on TV and health food stores as a way to cure other common ailments. There is nothing new about this, much less anything about it that actually cures autism.

Detox cures at least taste bad and are a waste of money. There is no indication that autism is caused by mysterious toxins that can be cleansed from a child’s healthy body. All of these detox cures are peddled in health food / organic food stores as another all natural health product to drain your wallet.

Raw Food / Organic Food / Special Diets

Special food diets are pushed frequently from whole food markets and organic food stores.

On TV you’ll see special products like superbeets that is sold at $40 for 150 g. This is an impressive profit margin for a product that cost $1.78 lb. Many of the “super food” products are overpriced and over hyped. Most super food products you can make at home with a food dehydrator and food processor.

Other foods are a more exotic, like camels milk which has been sold as a autism panacea. At $19 / L, it’s also a lot more expensive than bovine, almond, or other milk products.

Other diets call for removing artificial food coloring (red 40 comes up frequently), or removing processed food. These may help for certain GI issues, but expect to pay more for organic food.

Other special diets are used to treat co morbid disorders with autism. There is no definitive evidence that a special gluten free diet will cure autism, but there is ongoing research on the effects of GI health on the body.

While some special diets may help with certain health issues, there is no magic diet that cures autism. If you feel a special diet may help, talk to your doctor and gradually work it into your child’s diet.

Autism cures fill someones wallet

In social media groups I’ve seen a disturbing trend where the people who advocate for these cures also have business interest in said cures. Some parents are in multi-level marketing companies that peddle essential oils (which smell nice but cost $20 a vial) or other MML products. Other parents have amazon affiliate links for autism cure books or products, or are shell accounts for homeopathic quacks that are selling cures.

Autism cures
A screen capture of CD cures that I quickly found online. Screen capture by author.

The amount of exploitation aimed at the autism community is staggering. From expensive therapy’s to industrial chemicals, those that advocate for a cure are really trying to buy low and sell high. Industrial bleach cost
$0.005 / gal, yet is resold in smaller bottles for $40-$100+ . Such a 799,900% markup is the dream of every business.

A quick search of MMS cures found bottles for sale through ebay, amazon, and independent sellers. If you add books, certifications, and on-line training packages, there are many ways that unscrupulous people target families with autistic children.

It is clear that those that are promoting autism cures are really just promoting their own interest.

To stop this everyone in the autism community has to be proactive.

Screen capture of Facebook’s reporting policy. Screen capture by author.

Given that Facebook and other social media platforms are reluctant to police their sites, it’s up to autistic users to flag and report groups and users that are promoting harmful cures. In the NBC article some parents created fake profiles to actively hunt out these cure groups. While this is one extreme of what can be done, if al autistic users would keep an eye out for abusive accounts, we could all reduce the number of snake oil autism cure peddlers.

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