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Autism Treatment: Natural vs. Medications

Table of Contents


Topic: Autism and the disorders of the autism spectrum remain among the hot-button issues of 21st-century healthcare. Despite numerous and embracive studies on the topic, the exact pattern for treating autism has not been located yet. Moreover, heated debates concerning natural treatment vs. medication based one still occur. The paper in question will focus on the opportunities that natural treatment of autism opens.

Purpose: The purpose of the paper is to prove that natural treatment must be the basis for addressing the autism issue. While denying the significance of medication completely is unreasonable as well, the emphasis still must remain on the natural treatment methods, as the excessive use of medications presupposes treating the symptoms and disregarding the causes.

Scope: The scope of the study is not restricted to a specific case and presupposes that a major overview of the existing literature on the topic should be carried out. Therefore, the paper will embrace the concept of natural treatment of autism in general without focusing on any case-specific data.

Method: Seeing that no research participants will be included and no experiments will occur in the course of this qualitative study, the design of the latter can be identified as the general research.

Introduction: Natural Remedies as the Key to Treating Autism

Though recent studies have shed some light on the nature and specifics of autism and autistic spectrum disorders, the methods of treatment adopted for addressing the needs of autistic patients still remain inconclusive, mainly because of the severe side effects of most medications used as the basis for the treatment. Though a range of new forms of medicine for suppressing the neurological symptoms of autism has emerged recently, their success in treating the subject matter still remains rather dubious. While, in most cases, modern medicine helps subvert the symptoms of the disorder, it has a drastic and truly gargantuan effect on the development of the patient’s brain, as well as on their communication skills. In other words, the excessive use of the specified medicine triggers not only weight gain, but also more severe health issues, including development of type 2 diabetes, as well as the disruption of the major cognitive processes, not to mention that a range of patients develop a strong resilience towards the medication and, therefore, require larger doses, which have even more deplorable effects on them.

Debate and Literature Review: What Experts Have to Say

Despite years of research, none of the scholars has provided an unexceptionable theory on the topic; while some scholars aver that the accepted approach is the only legitimate way of tending to the needs of autistic patients, others deny even the use of the FDA approved medicine for treating autism any grain of usefulness. As much sense as the argument of the former makes in terms of reduction in the symptomatology, the adverse effects of the medicine such as gastrointestinal disorders, including nausea and weight change, changes in the emotional patterns (e.g., irritability, agitation, anxiety, nervousness, etc.), reduced sexual desire, and sleep issues (insomnia, drowsiness, etc.) (Rappaport et al., 2013), convinces in the reasonability of choosing the alternative for treating people with autism.

First and most important, it is crucial to point out that the medicine used traditionally for treating autistic people inhibits the cognitive functions of their brain (Rappaport et al., 2013). As a result, the nervous system of the patient suffers major and nearly irreparable damage (Rappaport et al., 2013). Researches show that, because of the difficulties related to locating the proper intake dose, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in general and fluoxetine in particular often cause a noticeable reduction in positive emotions (Coury et al., 2012). To be more specific, the frequency and intensity of such emotions drop significantly, creating the premises for developing severe depression. Among other effects that SSRIs have on autistic patients, gastrointestinal disorders, and sleep problems seem to be very common (Coury et al., 2012). As far as more threatening signs of the inefficiency and downright harmfulness of the drugs in question are concerned, the rapid slowdown in mental processes occurring in the patient’s brain must also be registered (Rappaport et al., 2013).

Along with the drop in the drop in the experience of positive emotions, the absence of negative ones was registered, too (Coury et al., 2012). This, however, invites the question of whether the experience of the latter is just as crucial of the mental and emotional development of an individual as that one of positive emotion. In fact, studies show that negative feelings do encourage emotional growth, as they prevent the patient from experiencing deep shock when facing a certain threat, encountering danger, or having to deal with emotionally devastating problems. Experiencing the whole spectrum of emotions, therefore, is essential for a faster recovery of the patient and for the restoration of the standard behavioral patterns of the patient (Charles & Carstensen, 2010). McPheeters et al. (2011) warn that, while medications may stultify the symptoms of autism in younger patients, the use of this type of medicine is fraught with serious consequences for the patients; the risks that they face run the gamut from causing challenging behavior in young patients to triggering repetitive behavioral patterns in autistic children (McPheeters et al., 2011).

Moreover, the fact that the effects of the SSRIs have not been studied fully (Weenden et al., 2010) should be brought up as a main piece of evidence in favor of abandoning it as a necessary measure of addressing autism-related issues. In other words, the outcomes of using certain SSRIs are practically unpredictable, and, therefore, it is against the healthcare code of ethics to use the specified medicine as the basic treatment for any case of autism. The effects of the alternative approach are much milder. Though the use of therapy may seem less efficient compared to SSRIs consumption, it does not expose the patient to experiencing a major emotional trauma (McPheeters et al., 2011).

Therefore, the latest studies debunk the alleged efficacy of the existing psychotropic medications as a tool for improving the patient’s wellbeing. The ambivalent nature of psychotropic drugs, i.e., their ability to quench the turmoil in the patient and the adverse effect that these medications have on the patient’s cognitive skills, and at the same time the deplorable effects that they have on the mental health of the patients, proves that the alternative treatment approaches are to be sought.

Luckily, the idea of stultifying the symptoms of autism with the help of psychotropic medicine is being supplanted by the concept of alternative treatment approaches. The specified tendency has been noted a couple of times lately in major researches regarding the effects of traditional medicine on autistic children and adults, though some of the studies have warned about the possible issues concerning the adoption of the specified strategy, as the alternative treatment methods have not been fully tested yet, and their efficacy has not been proven so far (Langworthy-Lam et al., 2012).

However, several studies regarding the subject matter show that the treatment methods involving the use of natural remedies are, in fact, very efficient and considerably less harmful to the mental capabilities of the patient than the traditional approach.

Traditionally, three key types of natural remedies are identified when it comes to addressing the needs of autistic children. These are dietary strategies and complementary or alternative medicine (Bendixen et al., 2012). Though far from being ubiquitous, the above-mentioned approach seems to have warranted its comparatively warm reception among modern researchers due to its behavior and communication approaches.

Reports show that the family-implemented treatment, though taking comparatively more time than the traditional treatment, also proves to be outstandingly efficient in providing the support and care that autistic patients require (Boyd et al., 2011). The aforementioned approach can be characterized by a complete absence of the adverse effects that psychotropic medications have on the patients; more to the point, the strategy in question allows for vivifying the cognitive functions of an autistic person’s brain by allowing the patient reconnect and reconcile with their family members. The support of the latter proves that there is a palpable synapse between family members and that this emotional connection creates the environment, which contributes to a faster recovery. Boyd has, therefore, proven that, by implementing the coded behavior framework, a healthcare specialist is capable of helping an autistic patient to reacquire the behavioral patterns that are characteristic of a healthy person and to avoid the drastic alterations that the use of traditional medication is fraught with. Boyd et al. (2012) claim that the adoption of behavior related patterns is likely to reduce the degree of repetitiveness in the actions of an autistic patient and, thus, help the latter accept a different behavioral pattern.

Recent studies, however, show clearly that there is an obvious prepossession regarding the use of alternative approaches. While the one that involves altering the behavioral framework of the patient seems very promising and has been proven quite efficient, alternative treatment methods are often viewed as parlous (Coury et al., 2012). Nevertheless, in terms of the aftermath, which follows each of the two treatment methods mentioned (i.e., the intake of psychotropic medications and the adoption of different behavioral strategies, a change in diet, complementary medicine), the latter three are clearly superior, since they do not practically have any negative effects on the patient’s cognitive capabilities, memory, consciousness, etc.

Debate Analysis: Side Effects of Medications and Other Issues

It is quite complicated to choose an obviously preeminent method for treating autism since none of the approaches specified above (i.e., the adoption of an alternative treatment strategy and the use of traditional medicine prescribed by most healthcare specialists) seems compelling enough. The ambivalent nature of the approaches under consideration leads to the idea of combining the two, yet giving the alternative treatment a higher priority. Seeing that the specified medicine does not lead to helping an individual integrate back into the society but, instead, contribute to one developing even more drastic disorders in cognitive processes and, therefore, induce an even harsher social isolation, the use of the specified medications should be restricted or aborted entirely. The alternative approaches, instead, must be encouraged as the key to galvanizing the patient’s mental processes and reviving the former.

The use of natural remedies, therefore, is fully justified as a means for treating autism in both young and adult patients. While the alterations in the patient’s behavior may not be as conspicuous as they are when using prescribed medications, they still have proven to be quite efficient and less harmful. Moreover, the slower pace of change will help the patient transfer from one stage of mental and psychological development to the other one without suffering a major shock. Finally, the fact that the natural remedies presuppose family involvement speaks in favor of their usage, since the effects of the cultural and family environment are crucial to the patient’s recovery in cases of mental disorders, as the DSM-V states: “Cultural meanings, habits, and traditions can also contribute to either stigma or support in the social and familial response to mental illness” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 56). It should be born in mind, though, that the involvement of family members as a strategy for curing the patient without resorting to prescription medicine must be used with caution, as the untimely or improper interactions between the family members and the patient may reduce the effects of the therapy to zero, therefore, depriving the latter of their chances to overcome the disease and integrate back into the society.

As the outcomes of the studies analyzed above show, the major difference between the traditional and the alternative approach concern the target of the treatment. While in the former case, the symptoms are the key target for the most part, and it is their elimination that the therapy strives for achieving, in the latter case, the actual cause of the disorder is addressed. This opens a unique opportunity for the patient to engage in a metacognitive analysis by locating the factors that cause their unwillingness to communicate and acquire information, training their social skills. As a result, the effects of alternative therapy, though admittedly taking a long time to emerge, prove more impressive than those of traditional medication usage. Hence, the use of alternative approaches in general and natural remedies, in particular, can be viewed as pertinent when dealing with an instance of autism.

Conclusion: Locating the Most Efficient Treatment Methods

Because of the numerous side effects that medications trigger in autistic patients, it is most reasonable to give preference to the natural remedies as the basis for addressing the problems related to the autistic spectrum disorders. Researches have shown that the negative effects of taking medications on a regular basis are inevitable for most autistic patients, which means that the current methods for treating the disorder must be revisited.

Nevertheless, dismissing the idea of using medications completely does not seem reasonable either. Instead, a well-balanced treatment plan with minor doses of medications and a solid framework for adopting natural approaches should be designed. In addition, it is highly desirable that psychotropic medications triggering a major change in the patient’s behavioral patterns, and cognitive functions must be abandoned completely. Because of the severe effects that psychotropic medications cause in autistic patients in general and autistic children in particular, it is imperative that the use of the specified medications should be restricted and that major stress should lie on the adoption of natural treatment methods.

Reference List

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Bendixen, R. M., Elder, J. H., Donaldson, S., Kairalla, J. A., Valcante, G. & Ferdig, R. E. Effects of a father-based in-home intervention on perceived stress and family dynamics in parents of children with autism. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(6), 679–687.

Boyd, B. A., McDonough, S. G., Rupp, B., Khan, F. & Bodfish, J. (2011). Effects of a family-implemented treatment on the repetitive behaviors of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(10), 1330–1341.

Charles, S. & Carstensen, L. L. (2010). Social and emotional aging. Annual Review of Psychology, 61(1), 383-409.

Coury, D. L., Anagnostou, E., Manning-Courtney, P., Reynolds, A., Cole, L., McCoy, R., … & Perrin, J. M. (2012). Use of psychotropic medication in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 130(Suppl. 2), 569–576.

Langworthy-Lam, K. S., Aman, M. G. & Van Bourgondien, M. E. V. (2012). Prevalence and patterns of use of psychoactive medicines in individuals with autism in the Autism Society of North Carolina. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 12(4), 311–321.

McPheeters, M. M., Warren, Z., Sathe, N., Bruzek, J., Krishnaswami, S., Jeromme, R. M. & Weenstra-VanderWeele, J. (2011). A systematic review of medical treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 127(5), 1313–1321.

Rappaport, N., Kulick, D. & Phelps, L. D. Psychotropic medications: an update for school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 50(6), 589–600.

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