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Occupy the American Psychiatric Association In A Darker Dark Age

OCCUPY the APA FIVE FIVE A Gamondes1By Adriana Gamondes

I’m writing this post for two reasons. First it’s to announce an event which autism families might take an interest in—a chance to protest the proposed changes to the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, which may go into effect in 2013. Secondly, I’m writing to bridge a gap between causes which otherwise share a lot of common ground.  

On May 5th, a reform psychiatric organization called Mindfreedom has organized a rally in Philadelphia and a march to “occupy” the American Psychiatric Association, which is holding its ritzy, drug industry funded yearly convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  MindFreedom states that it represents those who say they have been harmed or even helped by organized psychiatry but find that recent proposed changes to the DSM will lead to increased practices of over or wrongful diagnoses and over-medicating with drugs that carry severe side effects. Among the scheduled speakers will be activist attorney Jim Gottstein, founder of Psychrights, who lobbies against forced institutionalization and drugging and exposed the dangers of atypical antipsychotics frequently prescribed for individuals with autism.

Autism parents have trouble enough attending their own dental appointments much less rallies but the way this event is organized, there is nothing to stop anyone from carrying a sign protesting the proposed changes the DSM’s autism category.  There is also an occupy rally in Boston on the same day in solidarity with the Philadelphia event.

As far as what the “occupy” umbrella means, no one has been able to figure that out yet, though the Occupy Wall Street organizers clearly stated several demands:

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create [fake] derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

Occupy has been associated with a liberal bent, but according to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, this is not strictly the case:

I can’t speak for the people out there because I don’t know who they are or exactly what they are demonstrating against…I can argue the case for their right to express their outright frustration with what is going on. Some are liberals and some are conservatives and some are libertarians and some are strict constitutionalists. And if you read carefully over what I’ve written over the past 10 or 15 years, I talk a lot about this, that eventually we will go bankrupt.  

In other words, political constituency is no obstacle in participating— for the time being, “occupy” is what you make of it.  

Most in the autism community have probably seen coverage of how the proposed changes to the DSM’s autism diagnosis would impact individuals with autism and it’s not a pretty picture. Many believe the proposed changes to the autism diagnosis were designed to reduce the appearance of a genuine rise in the disorder in order to squelch public alarm. The proposed changes to autism criteria would eliminate about three quarters of those currently diagnosed according to one study.

At first glance it would seem our concerns are precisely reverse from those of psychiatric reform groups—psychiatric reform groups are concerned with overdiagnosis of certain conditions and the autism community is concerned about a scheme to underdiagnose the condition in question. But the concerns of the autism community come full circle, since individuals who are “booted out” of the autism diagnosis would then be shoved into other diagnostic categories such as “social communication disorder.” This vague and generalized “SCD” appears to have already been matched up with corresponding drugs in the pipeline promising to “improve socialization” in autism. Of particular concern is the new class of exceptionally dangerous glutamate antipsychotics, though old, off-patent drugs may gain a new profitable life as they’re re-patented for autism

So in the end the difference in concerns over DSM changes which exist between the two advocacy camps is moot but there could still be misunderstandings. Those in reform psychiatry may not understand that the term “autism,” as woefully useless as it is as a disease name, as much as parents prefer the condition not be viewed as “psychiatric” to begin with—and as much as many would hack off an arm so that their children didn’t have any label at all— has become a kind of advocacy “tent” under which families facing recent diagnoses of their children can find multiple resources.  One important resource for autism is access to what is so far the only evidence based form of behavioral therapy recommended for the condition—the prohibitively expensive Applied Behavior Analysis approach, also known as ABA. ABA may not be perfect and many who use it for their children might question some of the approach’s philosophical underpinnings (our children’s ABA therapist used to mock Skinner’s air conditioned “child box”), but positive reinforcement—which is the current trend in ABA— is sometimes the only way to reach the most severe children and it sure beats the fallback behavior control “strategies” increasingly used in schools: restraint and seclusion.

It’s also interesting that the DSM panel forged changes which would create a sort of diagnostic diaspora by “scattering” those currently diagnosed with autism among other disorders (for which this therapy is not recommended) just as many state legislatures wrote laws mandating insurance coverage for ABA.  This simply can’t be an accident and it’s clear insurers had a hand in creating the DSM changes.

Additionally under that autism “tent” is a mass of information on alternative, non-drug treatments for autism, alternative concepts of cause, prevention and even, in some cases, recovery.  There are online support groups, parent organizations, advocacy groups offering treatment grants—all with the name “autism” in their header. In light of this, the proposed DSM name scramble causes another huge problem in that some of the individuals who will be rediagnosed with newly coined labels like “social communication disorder” may never have been diagnosed with autism to begin with. Many of the individuals lumped into these new “diagnostic bins” could suffer from, for random examples, prescription drug injuries, traumatic brain injuries or any number of things which could cause social and communication deficits. All of these categories deserve targeted, individualized support (and sometimes justice), but it’s not as though the standing autism organizations can simply throw the new diagnostic terms into their titles and literature or reach out to everyone under the new labels offering help and information, since not all will need the same help or information.

There’s another aspect of this organized diaspora which could prove completely diabolical:  Also under the “autism tent” is something which could guide families to gain mainstream support in resisting conventional drug treatment and gain access to targeted medical approaches which may help enormously— the growing association between autism and environmentally mediated mitochondrial disease, which itself often contraindicates the use of the very drugs the DSM is so bent on marketing to the epidemic.  It so happens that all classes of “mental health drugs” are mitochondrial toxic to varying degrees.  But those families initially led away from the autism advocacy “tent” may never discover the mito association or discover it all too late. They may at first be relieved their child does not warrant the autism label, only to realize later that the child has suffered all the horrors of the diagnosis—including the many underlying medical issues and attendant behavioral manifestations of physical pain and metabolic dysregulation, the food and environmental intolerances, social ostracism, risks of deadly wandering, institutional abuse and psychiatric exploitation—but without access to the services or advocacy which could actually help.   

So there are many reasons for autism families to protest the proposed changes to the DSM and the DSM panel’s drug company ties.  And again, the reform psychiatry movement and the environmental autism/autism recovery movement both share parallel views and interests if either camp could take an interest in the other’s position. Despite some differences in interpretation, these camps certainly share common political concerns about the “capture” of health regulatory agencies in the US by the pharmaceutical industry and both movements have an increasingly aligned philosophy of democratic resistance and protection of individual rights. Within this common territory there are a few divisions between the two causes, but the central overlaps are defining.   

A few months back I came across an article by psychologist Bruce Levine, the psychiatric reformer who first applied the “revolving door” analogy to the corrupt employment swap between US regulatory agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. The article was entitled Would We Have Drugged Up Einstein? How Anti-Authoritarianism Is Deemed a Mental Health Problem, with the subtitle ofWe are increasingly marketing drugs that essentially ‘cure’ anti-authoritarians.”

By referring to Einstein, who has often been the target of illicit psychiatric diagnoses—including autism—Levine wasn’t intentionally opening the door to the autism debate, nor implying that Einstein was diagnosable with anything at all. Still, I think the idea needs to be qualified a bit because it speaks to the heart of the issue.

Levine’s mention of Einstein brings up the salient point that the tendency to diagnose dead celebrities with various disorders has now become a favorite American pastime. We are invited to do this by pop-psych publications and pop-crime analyses and, more ominously, from pharmaceutical-funded media. The benefits of selling conditions and drugs with dead pitchmen are obvious: Dead men can’t refuse an ad contract, don’t need to be paid, can’t protest the label or object to the products being sold with it, and contemporary adults might find bipolar disorder or depression more alluring for themselves or their children if they’re led to think of the conditions as the “Thomas Jefferson disease” (who supposedly suffered from bipolar disorder) or the “Abe Lincoln disease” (who supposedly suffered from clinical depression), etc.  According to a US News and World Report article pitching male depression, responsibility for the fate of a nation during revolution or civil war could not explain a few dark nights of the soul and monumental success in those roles could not prove someone fully rational.

Just as marketing studies show that people like to hear nice things about the car they just bought, people diagnosed or self-diagnosed with particular disorders like to hear how the illness gives them something in common with various luminaries. This is not to say that those with a legitimate diagnosis can’t be gifted or accomplished, just that any gifts they have may be in spite of labels and due to their humanity. Their humanity may be accentuated by perseverance in overcoming obstacles which could potentially heighten inherent human ability, although “giftedness” in itself may involve susceptibility to certain conditions—namely those caused by environmental factors, not excluding toxic exposure.

But those who embrace palliative diagnostic comparisons and enjoy diagnosing dead people tend to prefer over-arching labels and reject complexity if it destroys the impact of the preferred caste system they are trying to support—one in which they tend to come up winners. Not everyone who seeks self-esteem in comparisons is grasping at primacy. But the mark of the fanatic is the need for an inherent caste system.  What’s so tragic in this is the exploitation of an understandable need for self-esteem among the injured and disabled and how this is quite cynically being forged into tribalism in service to industry and institutional agendas.

The degree to which someone embraces a diagnosis as an identity seems to be inversely proportionate to their willingness to share the label with the infamous or contemptible— just as past-lives adherents never seem to claim to have been a rat or Hitler in previous iterations. Regardless, the psychopharmaceutical conglomerate promoting and exploiting this egotism is more than happy to—out of the other sides of their mouths— apply the same diagnoses to serial killers and mass murderers in order to terrorize the public into accepting forced “prophylactic” drugging of certain populations “for public safety.” Isn’t every assault on rights about the higher good? And so it follows that autism “expert” Michael Fitzgerald, who quite bafflingly was invited to contribute to “Brainman” Daniel Tammet’s autobiography, decided to ignore Hitler’s methamphetamine habit in order to argue that Hitler had Asperger’s. Those individuals currently embracing the autism diagnosis as a nearly “racial” form of giftedness and insisting that Einstein, Mozart and Van Gogh had it can’t complain: Once the door is opened to diagnosing the dead, one must accept all the crap logic and evil that marches out of it.  Live by the caste, die by it.

It’s not as if the palliative comparisons aren’t sad enough. For bitter, mediocre scientists there’s probably something deliciously necrophilic about laying pathologizing paws on those who may have accomplished more than most could in ten lifetimes but can no longer defend themselves. Defiling corpses with labels is a way of bringing them down to—or below—the humble mean; in a sense it’s a way to lower the bar of human accomplishment by reducing the height of human intellect to “diagnostic drivel.”

Regarding Einstein, not everyone agrees he was afflicted with even mild Asperger’s. Leading historians scoff at the idea. Einstein spoke somewhat—but not excessively— late and had a few temper tantrums as a child, but he had a wide array of friends and lovers, a sense of humor and travelled widely. What Levine is essentially arguing is that, due to his natural anti-authoritarian tendencies, if born today, Einstein might have been falsely diagnosed with ADHD or some kind of oppositional disorder and drugged to the teeth. Like the dead, children are powerless. Levine brings up some other extremely important points that I wholeheartedly agree with, particularly in terms of organized psychiatry’s role in snuffing political dissent:  

Americans have been increasingly socialized to equate inattention, anger, anxiety, and immobilizing despair with a medical condition, and to seek medical treatment rather than political remedies. What better way to maintain the status quo than to view inattention, anger, anxiety, and depression as biochemical problems of those who are mentally ill rather than normal reactions to an increasingly authoritarian society?...

In an earlier dark age, authoritarian monarchies partnered with authoritarian religious institutions. When the world exited from this dark age and entered the Enlightenment, there was a burst of energy. Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one’s own mind. We are now in another dark age, only the institutions have changed. Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense.

In every generation there will be authoritarians and anti-authoritarians. While it is unusual in American history for anti-authoritarians to take the kind of effective action that inspires others to successfully revolt, every once in a while a Tom Paine, Crazy Horse or Malcolm X come along. So authoritarians financially marginalize those who buck the system, they criminalize anti-authoritarianism, they psychopathologize anti-authoritarians, and they market drugs for their “cure.”  

To be clear, the environmental autism community in general quite specifically does not seek diagnosis as identity: they see autism as a physical illness, something which, far from defining the individual, threatens to obscure the individual. The idea is that human beings are special enough without adding disease or labels into the mix. If a certain minority of individuals with autism display astounding precocities, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the condition “conferred” these gifts. The gifts may simply be exaggerations of the individual’s pre-disease abilities: Just like perfect pitch is more often found among people who lose sight, the loss of certain faculties may amplify those that remain. Some individuals with autism can’t survive alone next to a pond much less assert any form of functional independence and this is rather in conflict with the idea of individuality. This doesn’t mean that affected people are not fully human and deserving of respect and acceptance any more than admitting that someone was, for instance, the victim of a hit and run diminishes them. Someone left paraplegic by hit and run or from combat wounds might actually prefer that others know they’re not in a wheelchair by choice. They could also hardly have a chance to recover unless treating physicians acknowledged the precise cause of their paralysis—the nature of the impact, whether the spine was shattered, etc. There’s no shame in surviving duress, but the environmental autism community tends to believe the disease is not the person and that trying to promote the disease as something desirable to escape social shaming is not the answer. This kind of spin minimizes the genuine suffering involved in the condition, even among the minority of higher functioning individuals. Someone has autism, they are not “autistic.” It is not a tribe. 

The distinction is incredibly important in a world which is generally at odds with the individual and seeks predetermined categories. On that issue, I see the world precisely as Levine describes. The US has increasingly become host to a “psychiatric inquisition” to paraphrase reform psychiatrist Peter Breggin .  Everything different, everything offbeat, special, out of the box—if that box is not about technological progress and profits—becomes the diagnosable criteria of inherently faulty brain chemicals. To quote John Stuart Mill, the 19th century social and political theorist who championed individual rights and who turned to art and literature to cure his own melancholy when the psychiatric remedies of the day proved too absurd,

Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

Today most people also adhere to sanctioned forms of thought and faith—even sanctioned alternatives. Personality—or the charm and ease too often derived from adapting to sanctions— is mistaken for character. Individuality is a kind of seizure. Dissent is dangerous, even if guided by fact.  The outer limit of political discourse is The New York Times and anything beyond is clinically insane and destructive radicalism, which is precisely the function of the Times in generating the fake debate over whether the paper is “liberal or conservative” when it has only ever been corporate and institutional. The result is that people either aspire to “bland normalcy”—another Bregginism— or risk facing catastrophic social and even financial failure just as Levine states. It’s always been like this—human nature doesn’t change—but the consequences of conformity in the technological age are more deadly than they’ve ever been.

I believe that what Levine is describing is accurate in its own right: that rugged individualists are commonly misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders which correspond to blockbuster psychoactive drugs to create a sort of poppy field effect and reduce social dissent to corrupt authority. Of course this is true. It was true from the moment madness became a concept which could be punitively flung at anyone in disagreement with the status quo in order to justify curtailing their freedom and it remains true today. But Levine’s skepticism of the pharmaceutical culture simply doesn’t go far enough, at least in this recent article. This is because in the intervening years between the advent of mass test marketing Ritalin and other psychostimulants for rowdy or challenging school children in the 1970’s and today’s explosion in learning disabilities, industry may very well have self-fulfilled what were once psychopharmaceutical industry marketing constructs of childhood disorders. In short, industry has actualized many disorders it once faked-up to sell drugs.   

Not all madness is nonconformity, though that doesn’t mean it’s predetermined genetic voodoo either. Antonin Artaud wrote of Van Gogh,

There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.

All true, but Van Gogh also suffered from syphilis and may have received the mercury treatment applied at the time, which Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill argue in their book, The Age of Autism, could potentially be the underlying cause of the paresis which afflicted sufferers in the past, not the syphilis pathogen itself.  And as most art students learn, Van Gogh—like Correggio, Raphael and Goya—was believed to be a brush licker.  He reportedly liked the taste of paint and it’s still the best way to get a point on a paintbrush. Unfortunately, lead, mercury, chromates, sulfides, barium and antimony were common in 19th century artist pigments; Cadmium Reds, Oranges, and Yellows contained cadmium, while cobalt contributed to Cobalt Blue and Cerulean Blue; Sheele’s Green contained arsenic. Does the idea of toxic encephalitis utterly discount the fact that Van Gogh’s eccentric passion for art and nature upset and frightened people even before his seizure in 1890? By no means, and it doesn’t argue that his genius or passion were derived from illness but probably expressed in spite of it.  Arguing that all gifts are accidents of birth or due to “genetic conditions” is an assault on the concept of free will.

The case with most men is that they go out into life with one or another accidental characteristic of personality of which they say: Well, this is the way I am. I cannot do otherwise. Then the world gets to work on them and thus the majority of men are ground into conformity. In each generation a small part cling to their "I cannot do otherwise" and lose their minds. Finally there are a very few in each generation who in spite of all life's terrors cling with more and more inwardness to this "I cannot do otherwise". They are the geniuses. Their "I cannot do otherwise" is an infinite thought, for if one were to cling firmly to a finite thought, he would lose his mind.  ~Soren Kierkegaard

But, at least depending on time and place, most people with high intelligence seemed to succeed in keeping their wits.  A Swedish study which looked at the relationship between IQ and suicide found that those with higher scores were less likely to succumb to despair and kill themselves. Other than bringing up questions of whether this research merely tested the generally happiness levels of people who are good at taking tests, the Rasmussen study specifically removed individuals with psychosis from the populations being studied and did not study the correlation between psychosis and intelligence.

From the title of the paper— Psychosis alters association between IQ and future risk of attempted suicide – it’s clear it was a response to repeat studies which argued a positive correlation between psychosis and intelligence.  This and the massive rise in incidence of psychosis in the 20th century and beyond beg the question of whether psychosis is mostly environmental. With that in mind, could Van Gogh’s susceptibility to toxic exposure have been part and parcel of his sensitive mind? There’s some evidence this could be the case for some individual(ist)s. In 1985, research led by Camilla Benbow found that verbally and mathematically precocious children had twice the rate of allergies as the norm. In that slightly more sensible era before the marketing of Prozac and the start of the autism epidemic, Benbow concluded, "We've identified some biological correlates of intelligence…We view our precocious kids as unpredictable products of [genes] and environments." Not either/or but both.

For instance, if “giftedness” were solely a product of genes, society would not be “losing” a quarter of all gifted children—half of all gifted girls—between kindergarten and 7th grade as Klein and Short discovered.  In their cross-study of the available literature, it appeared the self-esteem of gifted girls plummeted as they came of age for reasons of social disparity. This and many other forms of social disparity puts into question the validity of intelligence screening in general.  But as my friend Heather Fraser, an historian and bioresearcher who authored The Peanut Allergy Epidemic, joked, the immune system sometimes seems to be a kind of “homunculus” for the individual: emotionally sensitive, reactive person/sensitive, reactive immune system. Whether someone wishes to argue that the immune system is compromised because the person puts more energy into thought; or that the social stress of individuality compromises the immune system; or that more energy is free to pour into thought because of a genetically weakened gut and immune system—or a bit of all the above— the evidence that children with certain precosities may be more frequently physically susceptible is compelling. 

Working from the “expensive tissue theory” (Aiello and Wheeler, 1995), primatologist Richard Wrangham theorized that higher intelligence began to evolve among humans from the time they mastered fire and learned to cook food. By breaking down fiber and protein and killing pathogens or reducing toxins, Wrangham argues, cooking made the process of digestion less “expensive.” Wrangham states that this may have been key to brain development because the brain and GI tract, which is where roughly 70% of the human immune system is situated, are the most energy burning systems in the body and vie for metabolic fuel in order to develop and function (Wrangham, R. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Profile Books LTD, 2009. 213-220 p.). So could an especially energy burning brain  sometimes come at the cost of a weaker than average gut and therefore a weaker immune system, especially in infancy and childhood when development “costs” the most? Benbow’s research suggests there could be something to this.

Could this explain Einstein’s debilitating ulcers or Van Gogh’s sensitivity to toxic paint and medicine? They’re not around to ask and even if they were, I don’t expect either would have put up with being turned into lab rats even to defend themselves against a politicized psychiatric smear. And intellectual precocity can’t be the only form of susceptibility to toxins. Being ill at the time of exposure, maternal autoimmunity, higher than average testosterone, PKU status in the days before screening—there are many statistical correlations.  The real question is what could allergies have to do with metabolizing the increasing degree of toxins in the environment? A few years after Benbow’s study came out, Margie Profet, the evolutionary biologist who mysteriously disappeared in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005, published her seminal theory The Function of Allergy: Immunological Defense Against Toxins:

Substances that bind covalently to serum proteins generally are acutely toxic, and because many of these substances also bind covalently to the DNA of target cells, they are potentially mutagenic and carcinogenic as well. Thus, by protecting against acute toxicity, allergy may also defend against mutagens and carcinogens. The toxic hypothesis explains the main phenomena of allergy; why IgE-mediated allergies usually occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen and why they are often so severe; why the manifestations of allergy include vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, scratching, tearing, and a drop in blood pressure; why covalent binding of low-molecular-weight substances to serum proteins frequently causes allergy; why allergies occur to many foods, pollens, venoms, metals, and drugs; why allergic cross-reactivity occurs to foods and pollen from unrelated botanical families; why allergy appears to be so capricious and variable; and why allergy is more prevalent in industrial societies than it is in foraging societies. This hypothesis also has implications for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of allergy.

All the toxins in Van Gogh’s palette are now found at increasing levels in the real “starry night” sky, in food and children’s toys and some are in vaccines. On top of this, some components of vaccines—namely formalin/formaldehyde, aluminum and polysorbate 80—  have been explored as adjuncts to chemotherapy because of their ability to “permeabilize” the blood brain barrier, allowing the chemo agents more access to brain tumors. The same is apparently true for the drug Prozac. If this weren’t bad enough, acetaminophen, which pediatricians recommend as a pre- and post-vaccinal analgesic for infants, destroys glutathione in the liver: the single most important peptide in the body for excreting heavy metals. So not only have toxic exposures in childhood increased, they’re being turbo boosted.

Obviously the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t be alone in generating the modern rise in genuine developmental disorders out of what was once mainly a marketing scheme. They had help—though this is not to imply that adding mercury and other toxins to vaccines or the huge expansion of the vaccine schedule between 1988 and the present was a deliberate attempt to cause mass mental disability any more than Haliburton caused the Deepwater Horizon platform explosion that triggered the BP oil spill. Never mind that, after a flat profit year and one week before the explosion, Haliburton, the contractor responsible for cementing and monitoring the faulty valve, had purchased Boots and Coots, the oil and gas disaster clean up specialists who were ultimately awarded a lucrative clean up contract. Never mind that Eli Lilly, the original American distributor of the mercury-based preservative in vaccines, seems perversely excited about what the rise in autism means for drug profits while it simultaneously funds PR and research arguing that there is no genuine rise, that it’s all been “increased recognition” by an increasingly wise field of medicine.   

Anyway, the fact that the pharmaceutical industry may be largely responsible for the explosion of disorders it ultimately profits from may merely be part of the mystery of disaster capitalism: Incompetence is an interesting business model that tends to work out for highly diversified global conglomerates. In any event, as the number of chemical and pathogen-laden early childhood vaccines exploded to the current 115 doses from birth to 6 (Does this number sound extreme? Please do the math. And yes, every dose counts), so too did levels of pollution, pesticides, hormones and hormone disruptors in food and packaging; heavy metals in everything from apple juice to toys; and then the “80,000 or more” ambient toxins—in flame retardants, food and wood preservatives. The whole thing is like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express: a nearly perfect crime with so many culprits it may never be completely solved.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat and possibly more than one way to snuff out future Einsteins and individualists in general.  There’s even a chilling symbolism in the fact that both snuffing methods—social suffocation and toxic assault— may be brought about through incursions on individual rights, anything from stealth psychiatric screening in schools and forced drugging to the removal of vaccine exemptions and legislation granting toxic industries virtual indemnity. And this brings up what is probably the most important “common ground” between the reform psychiatry movement and the environmental autism movement: Both battle the “hat trick” used by various industries in covering up various assaults on individuality and individual rights, which is to depoliticize man-made tragedies in the public eye by quarantining these misfortunes solely to the fault of the individual, whether the tragedy results in  despair, discouragement, loss of freedom, disability or death.

Of course suffering can also be isolated to individuals but the discussion is about epidemics: 1 in 76 Americans with mental illness (excluding intellectual disability and autism)—up from less than 4 per 1,000 in 1955 ; 1 in 88 Americans with autism, 84% of whom are children--- up from 1 in 10,000 since the 1970s.   Whereas “the will of God” was once the means by which power refuted responsibility for politically induced suffering and placed the entire onus on the individual, today it’s “the will of genes”—except there’s no such thing as a genetic epidemic. As journalist Robert Whitaker demonstrated, the pattern of increase in adult mental illness since especially the 1950s has largely followed trends in mass marketing of “mental health drugs,” increasingly begun in childhood and adolescence, which have the clinical capacity to cause cumulative brain damage in a frightening number of patients. As others have demonstrated, the autism epidemic suddenly caught fire in 1988, the moment when the number of childhood vaccines increased and levels of vaccine mercury tripled. 

Considering the dual epidemics, Levine is just as right about the application of a drug-peddling fake-ADHD-construct today as he would have been prior to 1988: Aside from the current number of children with environmentally induced (by whatever cause) brain, immune and nervous system damage, as many or more typical children are still being misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders merely to peddle drugs and quash dissent as there ever were.  Considering the huge rise in the child market of psychopharmaceutical sales, and not to mention the rise in the population, the only argument against the idea that there are more normal children than ever being falsely diagnosed and drugged is this: There may arguably be fewer and fewer “normal”—as in physiologically healthy— children left in the wake of a toxic age.  One in ten with asthma. One in six with allergies. One in eighty-eight with autism.

My grade school in the 1970s was a test market for Ritalin and my parents were dead against it, so I heard a bit of the early running commentary. I saw what passed for “ADHD” back then and who got drugged. Today’s “ADHD” can sometimes seem like a euphemism for the old so-called hyperactivity disorder. It’s not just the bright, bored rebels or the kids growing up with domestic violence anymore, not even the mildly lead toxic kids of yore—though all of these things still go on. Today you don’t have to be an expert to see well-insured suburban school children with faint tics and speech delays, strange gaits, uneven eye sockets and other mementos of infant encephalopathic events.

Those who don’t see this have not spent a significant amount of time around public schools with average means that can’t afford to ship every afflicted child out of district and out of sight. Like colors in the desert, it sometimes takes a while for the eye to adjust and then suddenly you find yourself in an acid trip of hues—and there they are. You see children with ptosis— the tell-tale mitochondrial droop at the outside corners of the eyes—so often these days it’s begun to look like an ethnic trait. Or hair that looks like it was sprinkled with talcum. They don’t sleep. Parents are told this is normal. As infants they vomit up half of everything that goes into their mouths from two months on. Parents are told it’s colic. Then there’s the poop—these kids are either constipated, have explosive diarrhea or excrete four foot ropes of stool every three hours so that it’s clear that what they ingest is hardly benefiting them in terms of nutrition, even if their diet is top notch organic. They have tubes put in their ears due to multiple chronic ear infections and “glue ear.”  They have bizarre skin conditions we never heard of thirty years ago and, instead of one hapless kid in a grade level with eczema, you see scores. They develop facial tics and obsessions in the wake of trivial infections. Parents are told these things are genetic. If mom and dad pop a Prozac, they might even believe it.  And asthma and peanut allergies and the rest.  And that’s before the kids ever start on Ritalin, followed by all the ensuing drugs to treat the side effects of the drugs that came before and on and on.

And yet for those borderline kids—the ones that don’t have anything so definable as autism— parents who accept the “genetic brain chemical imbalance” theory of everything that ails children might cling hysterically to this virtual euphemism that Johnnie—with his overly large head, chronic post-nasal symptoms, wonky eye sockets and one slightly dragging leg— just has “ADHD.” I suppose this sounds better than “Johnnie is a forerunner of species extinction.” Though some families have distinguished that their child doesn’t have a “genetic imbalance” of any kind but was poisoned. When treated accordingly, a portion of these children recover. When a six year old who, since the age of one, has only slept in three hour cycles and wakes up screaming in between starts consistently sleeping 12 hours solid only five days after a simple change in diet— an effect which thousands and thousands of parents of children diagnosed with ADHD and autism report— there’s something going on. When nonverbal children start talking at the same time they begin sleeping, it’s noteworthy. When it turns out the culprit food proteins—the removal of which brought back sleep and vocabulary and eye contact—turn up as common ingredients in injectable vaccine excipients, it gives pause for thought. Pause for thought does not denigrate the concept of preventive medicine or vaccination—toxic production of same, pushing more and more shots for more and more trivial diseases onto a market, removing the right to sue or the right to informed consent and the general lack of industry accountability do.

The remaining reform psychiatrists who still believe that all of the above is a construct and due simply to a societal need to snuff out the budding individualist fail to reach certain parents and this is a tragedy. So many parents saw things going seriously wrong—not just negligibly or annoyingly wrong— with their child’s behavior and health long before the pediatrician offered drugs, so that the first signs of drug side effects are lost within what was already a galloping pathology. When parents try to explain this—parents who might otherwise be ripe to try drug alternatives—there are still a few reformists around who will go into Freudian huffs, accusing parents of something akin to Munchausen-by-proxy or weak-mindedness rather than face the growing obsolescence of their position. They seem to forget Freud’s greatest contribution to science: The mirror.  Even if he often forgot the principle himself—and though his nephew, “father of propaganda” Edward Bernays certainly did— Freud proposed that everyone, not simply less “elite” or educated castes, needs to guard against the universal human tendency to misapply reason to rationalize  injustice towards others. Some professionals may also be ignoring the mounting evidence that many of Freud’s most famous “hysteria” patients likely suffered from prolonged mercury exposure.

To be completely fair to the advocacy arena of reform psychiatry—to which we should forever be grateful for blowing the whistle on prescription drug risks and marketing fraud, for banning forced lobotomy and many other major reforms— some reformists have identified the disagreement as mainly “nosological” or an issue of disease names. In Talking Back to Ritalin, after thoroughly debunking the ADHD “brain scan scam”* Peter Breggin put out a partial list of potential medical and emotional causes for behavioral symptoms which, on the surface, may appear “attentional”—such as thyroid disorder, closed head injury, allergy, chronic pain from any cause, sexual abuse or trauma from another source, and lead and mercury poisoning. For mercury poisoning, Breggin provides one example: some NY tenements were found to have high levels of mercury in the flooring due to a particular Santaria practice in Hispanic neighborhoods, and children living in these apartments were getting poisoned. Breggin then exhorts mental health professionals to cease slapping behavior which could stem from any number of causes with an unhelpful psychiatric label but instead to name the diseases for cause: thyroid disorder if that’s appropriate, lead poisoning and so forth.

Though of course consumers are forced to accept the labels used for insurance coding and by schools, Breggin had a definite point. But this is where a deep schism appears within the reform camp. Though more and more psychiatric reformists are giving credence to the idea of vaccine-induced or at least environmental toxin-induced brain disorders—which is only logical, since so many prominent reformists and several advocacy journalists are armed with an increasing number of studies showing psychiatric drugs can cause toxic brain disorders—some continue to defend vaccines or refuse to even discuss the risks and clinical associations with brain damage. Some might insist that autism—when the debate inevitably turns to that looming subject— is caused by parental neglect and abuse, though admittedly those who insist on going down with the Bettelheim Titanic are mostly French (Lacanists) or from another generation. 

The vaccine safety and environmental autism camp has been responsible for a degree of “nosological confusion” as well which may have alienated some reform psychiatrists, even those who are open minded. Though, again, parents don’t have much choice over whether to use standard diagnostic codes for conditions set forth by schools, physicians and insurers, in drawing parallels between the rise in autism and the rise in ADHD, the vaccine safety movement has not been careful enough in conceding that a significant percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD—even if the reference is to a toxically-mediated form— are still being misidentified as having anything at all wrong with them. For example, if ADHD is only ever a “lighter” form of autism, why have rates of autism been traditionally lower among African American children and children in lower socioeconomic strata in the US (who have been traditionally “underserved” by the vaccine program) while this population of children is simultaneously so widely diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and other over-generalized and highly druggable behavioral conditions? Some of it may be from toxicity due to environmental and economic racism (programs for abatement of lead infested dwellings in poor neighborhoods—which are often situated near sources of industrial pollution—are notoriously inadequate). But part of this disconnect—the formerly low autism rate coupled with simultaneous increased diagnosis of ODD, ADHD, etc.—is likely due to the fact that children are still being diagnosed with certain conditions as a form of social control or in place of remedies for social conditions.

The point is, not all children labeled with ADHD or, for instance, bipolar disorder (which may often follow ADHD diagnosis and treatment, since psychostimulants are notorious for causing mania), are attributable to the same forces which produced the autism epidemic—though some may be. It’s of desperate importance to add the disclaimer even if advocates and watchdogs can’t access the actual hard data to be able to form better statistics. This may not make for a good sound bite, certainly, but it’s more likely to engender trust between significant advocacy camps and disadvantaged groups who know perfectly well that their children were diagnosed and drugged by the state in place of hiring more and better teachers for a disadvantaged school.

For African American children and other minorities, these diagnoses and corresponding drugs are often forced against parental consent through social welfare or school coercion, since African Americans as a population have been traditionally more likely to be “noncompliant” out of suspicion of mainstream medical policies towards their children, reportedly stemming from atrocities like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, the Hoover era “drug flooding” in black neighborhoods and the Soviet-like over-diagnosis of African Americans with schizophrenia out of cultural illiteracy or as punishment for, again, noncompliance or political dissent. Internal awareness of this history may also explain traditionally lower vaccination rates. The assumption of government health regulatory agencies was that the lower rate of vaccination in some strata has been due to socioeconomics and lack of access, but to hedge bets against pure dissent, Medicaid programs began hinging services on vaccine compliance and noncompliant families could find themselves reported to social services.  Unfortunately the most rapidly growing rate of autism is currently among Hispanic boys, who at one time had the lowest rate in the country by all accounts. Just as unfortunately, infant mortality among Hispanic children has not decreased with the steep rise in vaccine uptake in this demographic.  With the rise of genuine developmental disorders in this community, the drugging rate has gone up as well—another boost to the already exploding autism drug market, which is currently moving towards $4 billion and represents roughly 7% of all psychopharmaceutical sales in the US for an estimated 1 to 2% of children. Since the start of the autism epidemic in 1987, profits for atypical antipsychotics alone went from $0 to over $16 billion.   

So why would some (not all) reform psychiatrists be resistant to the idea of toxically induced behavior disorders among children when there’s so much evidence that one profit agenda may be tied to another  and the PR model for drug injury cover-up may have simply been extrapolated? The fact is, the science on the role of vaccines in autism is not decisive. Between the multiple studies demonstrating a possible link between vaccines and developmental disorders in children, the Pace study which uncovered 83 individuals who were compensated for autism within sealed vaccine injury claims, to the exoneration of John Walker Smith in regard to the Lancet study, the question has not been adequately “asked or answered” as the media claims.

Reformists would have to be willing to review this evidence as a first step and resistance to basic investigation could be a matter of which theories certain practitioners first staked their education and careers on and/or elite consensus within certain intellectual circles. Others might simply be motivated by fear. We are all warned that to so much as question the approaches used in the “war on disease” is tantamount to bringing back deadly epidemics, never mind that the debate is not about the merits of the concept of preventive medicine but really over the size of the schedule, the addition of vaccines for trivial diseases which have proven to be riskier than the diseases in question and the necessity of 99 or so vaccine additives which have never been tested for safety in combination.

Other than what seems like a limited contingency of psychotherapists who shortsightedly attack out of hand any theory which poses a threat to their incomes or threatens to anachronize their approaches, some reform-minded mental health professionals may be deeply reactionary against any somatic theory of mental disturbance in order to give no quarter to today’s dangerous and prevailing biopsychiatric views of genetic brain chemical imbalance for all human emotional suffering, which is the justification for a range of incredibly evil policies, including, again, court-mandated drug treatment for children and other vulnerable groups.  Leo Kanner, who later recanted his “cold parents” concept, may have initially been motivated to generate the early version of the “fridge mom” theory of autism in response to Nazi and American eugenics which were all the rage in his day. His stance, if it was reactionary, had the sole benefit of simply discounting a eugenic explanation of autism. If the condition was environmental—whether emotionally or toxically environmental—it meant hope of prevention and possible recovery, which in turn meant there could be no eugenic justification for killing the afflicted.  Like today, undercutting bogus over-extrapolated genetic theories—by almost any means— may have seemed desperately necessary.

As some are aware, in Kanner’s time children viewed as “defective” weren’t just being drugged to death (as a predictable but not necessarily deliberate outcome of today’s practice of loading children with toxic medications), they were being systematically murdered. The threat was palpable even in the US and even after WWII. The American Medical Journal published papers openly calling for the “euthanization” of the mentally disabled and there had been spates of “Black Stork” murders of “abnormal” children by obstetricians or murder by attrition in institutions (starvation, deliberate release of contagions, etc.). Kanner was one of shockingly few who decried these proposed policies in the 1940’s.  (Breggin and Breggin, The War Against Children of Color, 1998. 136 p.).

To date, there’s renewed fuel for fears of modern eugenics since the practice appears to be spreading again in some European countries:

A high proportion of deaths classed as euthanasia in Belgium involved patients who did not ask for their lives to be ended, a study found.

More than 100 nurses admitted to researchers that they had taken part in 'terminations without request or consent'.

Although euthanasia is legal in Belgium, it is governed by strict rules which state it should be carried out only by a doctor and with the patient's permission.

The disturbing revelation  -  which shows that nurses regularly go well beyond their legal role  -  raises fears that were assisted suicides allowed in Britain, they could never be properly regulated.

History repeats and infants are not spared:

Nearly half the newborn babies who died in Flanders over a recent year-long period were helped to die by their doctors, a new study reported yesterday.

Paediatricians in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium either discreetly stopped treating the babies or, in 17 cases, illegally killed them with lethal doses of painkillers.

The study, published in The Lancet, examined the deaths of every baby who died within a year of birth in Flanders between August 1999 and July 2000.

Eugenics isn’t the only scourge. There are other forms of intellectual tribalism. As the banned French film The Wall demonstrates, Lacanism and off the wall Freudian concepts—arguably the diametric reverse of genetic theories— can be taken to outrageous and abusive extremes. For instance “Le Packing,” the practice of wrapping children with autism in freezing wet sheets has set off an “anti-packing” movement in France. In light of the association between autism and mitochondrial disease, which can involve severe intolerance to extremes of heat and cold, the practice is beyond cruel. Lacanists also recommend barring contact between autistic patients and their families or at least that fathers intervene on and disrupt the maternal “psychosexual bond” on the theory that mom’s secret sexual desire for the child caused the child’s regression. Nice.

But this is not to set the French up as barbarians in comparison to the US: barbarity has no borders. The US blames mom in its own way with the “old mothers” headlines which ignore that the correlation represents less than 4% of all autism mothers (97.5% were under age 35 at time of birth) or the “fat mom” theory which is proving to be just as sketchy. Neither apply to the whole or even the majority but, even if they did, neither would prove much: it’s logical that the number of years someone has been on earth or their body’s fat content could increase toxic burden, but these correlations are too weak to justify the headlines. There are far higher associations to maternal rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disease (7 to 8 fold increased risk of offspring developing autism)—conditions which are also on the rise, demonstrably due to toxic exposure and involve impaired detoxification capacity. The US also boasts hyper-drugging as well as physically and emotionally abusive practices (the Rotenberg “shock” center and widespread deadly restraint and seclusion of disabled children in schools). And at least in France, all the sheet-wrapping Lacanists can do is censor and yap— the state has no power to mandate these horrific treatments, while the US has erected increasing numbers of “psychiatric courts” for the purpose of mandating drugs and has no federal laws against the use of deadly restraint and seclusion practices in schools.

Though the US offers therapeutic alternatives for autism, most can’t afford the non-drug therapies and the new diagnostic changes mean that most will again be made ineligible for autism therapies even if these therapies have been recently mandated in their states. The tragedy in France is the lack of care alternatives or support for severely affected children and adults which tend to herd affected individuals towards the inhumane institutions. The one upside, aside from lack of mandates, is that there are fewer suffering from autism in France— the autism rate in this country is about 1/5th to  1/10th the US rate. Curious also that they have about 1/3rd the number of childhood vaccines, no vaccine mandates and ban many Monsanto pesticides and a host of other toxicants which are in wide use in the US.  

What both extreme approaches share is that they’re simply wrong in the case of autism and for some reason, abuse seems to spring forth from extreme views as a sort of consolation prize for being dead wrong. Is it that someone’s life’s work is pointless, their theories are crap, but at least they get to take it out on someone powerless? It’s more likely that approaching a problem with the wrong theory and solution sets up the domino effect in itself according to trauma researchers Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft: the victims’ failure to get better under a particular therapeutic construct is doubled back on the victim as further evidence of either their inherently hopeless state or unwillingness to recover, both of which reduce the empathy of helping professionals and increase the potential for mistreatment (Ochberg, FM. Post-traumatic therapy and victims of violence. Brunner/Mazel Inc., 1988. 116-117, 123-124 p.).  Also, both extreme approaches perform the institutionally sanctioned service of quarantining the problem to families of origin and the individual—one via the genetics-only theory and the other via the emotional environment theory— rather than taking the more dangerous and politicized tact of investigating the mounting evidence that the rise in autism and at least subsections of related behavioral disturbances in children arose from institutional policy and the profit motives, lack of accountability and incompetence of powerful industries.  

Mental health professionals concerned about ways in which non-drug therapies have been supplanted by biopsychiatric models and who are fearless enough to take on the pharmaceutical industry in questioning drug treatments may still be missing golden opportunities to help in light of the epidemics of genuine developmental disorders. Bruce Levine makes the case for it in a roundabout way. What parent of a child who suddenly lost skills (so-called “autism”) or suddenly developed out-of-control attentional issues and other behavior (so-called “ADHD”) at the age of two couldn’t use a bit of here-and-now cognitive therapy to get through the trauma and keep their wits about them the better to help their children? What parent who saw their child regress due to environmental factors couldn’t use some help in taking the very dangerous, anti-authoritarian road of facing the possibility that powerful entities like health regulatory agencies—the same that promote psychiatric drugs and other brain disabling treatments for children—and the pharmaceutical industry and/or major polluters could be responsible? What “dissenting” family couldn’t use support in attempting to recover their children and avoid the  coercion to drug? But what parent who genuinely saw their child decline after 9 vaccines in one day or another toxic exposure is going to pay for a therapist for themselves or their child when this therapist does an internal eye roll at the mention of potential toxic cause? Every word Levine writes is true:

Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized, but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death. 

Or actual death in the case those authorities mandate medical treatments with severe side effects or abuse a child because they mistake symptoms of nervous system damage and pain for power plays which need to be “corrected.” Levine did not indicate whether those illegitimate authorities meant well or not. They might mean very well and still be fatally wrong.  The road to hell and all that.  

For reform psychiatrists and neuroscientists who critically study psychopharmaceuticology, imagine how valuable many could be if they extended their research on the physiological mechanisms of psychiatric drug injuries to the shocking and evident overlaps in cellular damage caused by other environmental toxins? Anyone can look up, for example, the overlap between mercury and Depakote—a widely acknowledged but rare drug-mediated cause of autism. Both are acute mitochondrial toxins. Both cause elevated serum ammonia, Alzheimer’s type-II astrocytosis; glutamate, glutamine and tubulin assembly disruption. Both cause apoptosis. Anyone can look at the new research on neonatal SSRI exposure and autism and discover that SSRIs can cause mitochondrial damage, elevated serum ammonia; glutamate, glutamine and tubulin disruption and cell death. Then of course if the question is whether drugs could have caused the autism epidemics, anyone can compare statistical exposures and at least formulate a rough epidemiological scenario: what is more ubiquitous—Depakote exposure in pregnancy or ambient mercury, arsenic and lead from coal-fired power? Is SSRI exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy—as alarming as the increase has been since the “Mother’s Act” was passed— more common than maternal flu shots in pregnancy or vaccine uptake among American infants?

 Any reform psychiatrist who believes that antidepressants can cause brain cell death, sudden suicidality and violence in previously nonviolent individuals, OCD, mania, stereotypies, social withdrawal, memory and language problems— and argues that this can be explained by toxically-mediated brain damage—can’t easily dismiss the idea that chemicals which impact the same cellular  pathways could possibly cause developmental disorders. If the above is what a layperson can uncover in their nonexistent spare time, imagine what an independent brain expert with a previous grounding in deciphering industry lab manipulation and with no fear of love lost with the pharmaceutical industry could dig up?

I’ve spoken at length with more than a few psychiatric reformers. Though I’ve met several who find the idea of vaccine and pollution-induced autism compelling, I’ve had debates with others. But these debates are unlike any I’ve ever had with mainstream medical professionals who adhere to the prevailing doctrines of medical authority—even if there are disagreements, I always walk away with more valuable information and insights than when I started. One psychiatric social worker leaned to the view institutional autism among Romanian orphans stood as evidence that autism in general could be emotionally based… and then introduced me to the activist physician who first alerted me about mercury in vaccines.  The social worker had never heard of the monstrous rate of AIDS among this population (roughly 10,000 orphans out of roughly 150,000 developed HIV), which is important considering how the children contracted the disease. Due to policies ordered by the wife of hypochondriac Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, whom he’d appointed as health minister despite her grade school education, children in Romanian orphanages were repeatedly and indiscriminately vaccinated using shared needles:

Despite his paranoia and fear of illness, Ceausescu was steadfast in his denial that AIDS was a real disease. He believed that it was mainly a syndrome of the bourgeoisie West, and that Romanians would not suffer. So, of course, Romanians suffered. Thousands of the abovementioned orphans died of AIDS contracted from blood transfusions and shared needles in vaccinations.

Vaccines, of course, were given far more often than blood transfusions. The killed-virus vaccines used in this period were reportedly often from western sources—the one open conduit in Ceauescu’s blockade— and were produced using full mercury since no others were available. While it’s true that these orphans were often subjected to inhuman conditions and neglect which could explain severe attachment conflicts and other serious issues, not one of the researchers (one of whom—Sir Michael Rutter— is a familiar fixture among industry conflicted vaccine defenders) studying the phenomenon of institutional or “sensory deprivation” autism within this group ever put two and two together with the rate of HIV infection and the medical practices which caused it. Despite this consensus,  some adoptive parents of Romanian orphans diagnosed only with autism have made the connection and, at least according to web testimony, apparently found a degree of success combining behavioral therapy with medical treatments designed for environmental injuries,  such as the Defeat Autism Now! protocol.

Another widely published reform psychiatrist debated with me on the issue of the Faroe Islands and Seychelles child development/mercury studies. She argued that the Seychelles children whose mothers consumed large quantities of mercury-laden tuna did not show the same level of damage from methylmercury in fish as the children in the Faroe Islands, whose mothers consumed large amounts of mercury-laden whale meat. I pointed out the difference in latitude, citrus consumption and sunlight (the Faroe Islands are north of Scotland; the Seychelles are in the Indian Ocean and vitamins C and D are known to help with detoxification) . Later I ran across information on the possibly more important differences in researchers’ conflicts of interest. The Faroe study was performed by researchers without ties to any industry which produced mercury-containing products or toxic waste. The Seychelles study was led by a researcher who had a proven record of deflecting injury claims by members of First Peoples’ tribes in Canada who were poisoned by mercury spills from the Dow Chemical Corporation in what has been called the “Canadian Minimata.” The Seychelles study was also funded by the Electric Power Institute—the world’s largest lobby for the coal-fired industry—the FDA and two of the world’s largest fishing lobbies, and was performed within a population whose sole employer was the Heinz Corporation’s tuna processing and canning facility, the supplier for Starkist. What would happen to a worker who broadcast a disagreement with any finding that their child was “just fine” after fetal exposure to their company’s product, particularly when the research interviews were arranged through this employer? (Hightower, JM. Diagnosis Mercury: Money, Politics and Poison. Island Press, 2009. 191-204 p.).  

The same reform psychiatrists also remarked that a combination of mercury or other environmental toxic exposure coupled with psychiatric drugs could deepen the damage of both. She described Prozac and other drugs as acute mitochondrial toxins akin to the pesticide rotenone.  

One visiting French medical journalist and psychiatric reformer I spoke with found himself painfully straddling a fence between the prevailing views in France regarding autism and the traditional French hobby of calling out undemocratic US policies. I lived in France as a teen and understood his quandary, though I think he was fair in the end. He at first argued that mercury had been removed from American vaccines since 1999 and yet autism rates continued to rise.  I responded that there were dozens of other known neurotoxins in vaccines; that vaccine safety tests were performed only with active placebo (placebos which include the same chemical adjuvant, preservatives and biologics as the test vaccines) and that the full schedule of vaccines had never been tested in combination. I added that mercury was only voluntarily phased out of some vaccines and, along with the fact that some full-mercury vaccines remained on shelves at the time (2007), the reduction was nearly moot since full-mercury flu shots were recommended for pregnant women and infants as young as six months. All while the CDC exaggerated the rate of death from flu—trumpeting in the media that an average of 36K die of flu every year when the actual rate the year before had been less than 900—roughly the average death toll since 1979.  

This journalist was also an MD, so it wasn’t necessary to explain the switcheroo, the bad science or how fetal mercury exposure could be more damaging—microgram for microgram—than even higher levels of exposure later in infancy. He exclaimed with alarm that fetuses have no means of excreting mercury. Then he expressed astonishment over why, in response to the vaccine mercury manipulation and fraudulent disease-mongering, the population hadn’t taken to the streets in protest like they do periodically in France when government gets out of hand.  I explained that people in the US are afraid of government and that sense of helplessness probably impacts how much “truth” the average person feels they can afford to digest. He said, “You know what we call that, don’t you? Fascism.”  

Mussolini defined fascism as "the moment when you couldn't put a cigarette paper between political and corporate power." In certain ways, we are very close to this moment in the US. In other ways we’re already there and we’ve certainly been exporting this type of injustice for a long time. Psychiatric reformers who’ve been battling the psychopharmaceutical complex for decades, who’ve received death threats, spurious attacks by licensure boards, attacks on their careers from embedded media and medical journals for daring to question the drug treatment paradigm, manipulated industry studies, the $40 billion plus in annual psychopharmaceutical profits, the mass drug-induced injuries and deaths— and the regulatory capture which facilitates all of the above— would hardly argue this point.

I happen to know some reformists committed to advocacy against child drugging who are simply cautious about publicly taking on yet another fraught issue because if they attempted to fight on two fronts and lost credibility, lives could be lost on two fronts. But privately they read everything. Privately some are developing an informed view. I’ve seen a few reach a point of critical mass and begin to publicly question an association between toxins and autism, even questioning the burgeoning vaccine schedule. I feel nothing but gratitude towards the work they’re doing.

I not only understand but respect the measured and cautious approach of the professional activist who grasps that none of this is a game. What I mind is illogical avoidance even in private. Anyone who makes a living or gains career or other status within the field of children’s mental health, even if it’s in the role of critic, and doesn’t take a serious interest in forces which may be delivering human fodder to the drugging assembly line risks being viewed as a disaster capitalist themselves. 

As Levine indicates, we exist in the pharmaceutical “dark age.”  As so many have asked—why is it so hard to believe that the very same companies that cover up research fraud, conflicts, injuries and deaths from pharmaceutical drugs suddenly sprout halos when it comes to another product line? And what if the same toxins can be found in increasing amounts in the general environment? Would facing this force contemplation of too dark a dark age?  I see only one interconnected shadow and all of us are standing under it. That shadow is our common ground but so is our means of fighting it.  

*In the widely touted study presented at the 1998 National Institute of Mental Health ADHD Consensus Conference, researchers James Swanson and F. Xavier Castellanos were called out by reform neurologist Fred Baughman for failing to mention that the children whose scans were abnormal had all been exposed to psychostimulants, which would predictably cause the types of global changes seen in the scans. F. Xavier Castellanos is now promoting brain scans as a means of diagnosing autism through the NYU Child Study Center.  

Adriana Gamondes is a contributing editor at Age of Autism and one of the administrators of the Facebook page. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and recovering twins.

Adriana Gamondes is a contributing editor at Age of Autism and one of the administrators of the Facebook page. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and recovering twins.

 

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A very intriguing prospective, but as a man personally experienced with Aspergers syndrome, I don't agree with the following assumption:

"If a certain minority of individuals with autism display astounding precocities, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the condition “conferred” these gifts. The gifts may simply be exaggerations of the individual’s pre-disease abilities: Just like perfect pitch is more often found among people who lose sight, the loss of certain faculties may amplify those that remain."

From my experience with individuals on the autism spectrum, and admittedly it's a very diverse group with regard to the expression of their autism, there is nevertheless often a "gift" conferred on the individual, and it does seem directly related to the autism syndrome. It may be memory-related, it may be mathematical ability, it may be the ability to focus obsessively, or any of a thousand possible "gifts", but whatever the gift, it seems to make its self evident early on. It appears so early that it doesn't seem to be adaptive at all. I describe it like water in a shallow container, in most people the container is level, much like the norm of human abilities. Where there is autism however, the container is tilted at the time the neurons and their connections are first establishing themselves. The water becomes deeper in one corner and shallower in another, so while deficits exist in one area other areas are very full. It's similar to what the author is saying, but if you believe as I do, autism is intertwined with the individual. The gift isn't an expression of my "inner" pre-autism self, because that self never existed. You can't separate out what my personality would be like if I didn't have autism - I'd be someone else entirely. Some of the most severely affected people would like to be rid of their autism, but there are also many people on the spectrum who would not. They will tell you, despite all the negatives associated with their condition, they would not want to be "cured" or made neuro-typical any more than a boy would want to be a girl, or vice versa. It's how you're wired to be, it is who you are.

A site that may be helpful for people who are searching for non-drug treatment options (a non-commercial site) -

http://discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/wellness

My best,

Duane Sherry, M.S., CRC-R

There are some links on this site that may be helpful to families who are seeking non-drug options -

http://discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/wellness

Duane Sherry, M.S., CRC-R

No biomarkers in autism? Mitochondrial insufficiency, lipid metabolism defects, neurological abnormalities, methylation defects, hormonal abnormalities, immunological abnormalities, encephalopathy, increased rate of seizure and metabolic disorders, the list goes on.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0003815

http://www.autismcalciumchannelopathy.com/Abnormal_biomed_findings.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19608392?ordinalpos=7&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Autism is a fake disease. So what if your kid doesn't talk? maybe he's taken a look around at this cesspool and doesn't like what he sees? You can't prove anything is biologically wrong with him, hence the DSM label.

APA is only the drug pushing branch of pharmaceutical cartels.

Very dark age. I appreciated the quote of Levin, "Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one’s own mind."

I'm feeling much more of the risk lately, seeing the human weakness and the increasingly apparent corruption that influences many "institutions," losing what I guess all along was a false sense of some level of security. Seeing brings the responsibility of resisting, ironically while being more aware that the risk may not just exist in seeming crazy, but in fighting an enemy willing to harm in order to achieve whatever ends.

In the meantime, it's still hard to trust "one's mind," after being so misled in the first place.

A skeptical view of the untested expansion of the U.S. vaccine program with earlier combined doses of substances, known neurotoxins, in clear excess of limited safety guidelines now to me falls well into the realm of common sense. That has also led to a frustrating awareness that all along some have been harmed in varying unacknowledged degrees by vaccination, and that comes with an uncertainty that the benefits have ever truly outweighed the risks.

Maybe we are having to ask these professionals who see as much as they do to walk at least in thought a lot further into unmarked, uncomfortable terrain, but the alternative seems to be to allow more to learn by personal experience of vaccine injury. The industry seems determined only to grow.

I sure hope Occupy is just getting started! I see a lot of different groups with health concerns (multiple sclerosis- due to their discontent with pharma and the MS societies giving the new Zamboni ideas the short shrift), Lyme sufferers, parents of children with autism etc. etc. realizing they need to come together as one to fight for what is right- medical integrity, honesty. The Canary Party is a great start toward this. Another Ed assistant I met recently was just sharing her thoughts re. the kids these days and health and we were saying it all needs to come together- food health and safety re. GMO's etc. and environment issues- it was great to see David Suzuki (environmentalist) putting together a program on autism and gut issues. Occupy Medicine/pharma is really needed and I wish Ron Paul would continue to speak out on this issue. I sure would have voted for him if I were American.

Amen to what everyone has written so far. I always end up with more info and clarity from the feedback than I started out with.

I first heard about this rally from a Mental Health Professionals group which is very much alarmed by the changes proposed in DSM5. They see the insipid way pharmaceutical is bent on changing the very nature of their profession.

An acquaintance of mine works for a pharmaceutical company that is getting into high marketing gear for the increase in schizophrenia diagnosis sure to come from the DSM5 changes. They moved her from asthma drug research to this one.

Boston is a huge pharma and biotech area. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Occupy is just getting started. Ninety-nine point nine percent of us have had more than enough from the one tenth of one percent--some of us just don't know it yet.

They are coming for you--or your child--next!

We are big, big profit centers for them.

p.s. to my previous comment. Add Occupy ADA to the list. Dentistry has done incalculable neurological damage to the population via mercury (amalgam) fillings.

Another incredibly thorough and incisive analysis. Adriana, you've raised so many issues, it's difficult to even comment - other than to say What hath we wrought? The operative word is "we." We are part of the problem and we must be part of the solution.
I'm very happy to see a movement called Occupy the American Psychiatric Association. APA policies impact all of us. A trip to the family doctor can easily result in a prescription for an antipsychotic or Ritalin.

The APA and the AAP are quite a team. One profits by causing this mess, and the other profits by attempting to clean it up - mostly making it worse.

The way I see "Occupy," it's a brand (ironically). And what it's branding is the public's desire to expose corruption - economically, pharmaceutically - and potentially in other facets of government and commerce.

Occupy pharma, Occupy AAP and Occupy APA may be the most important Occupy movements of them all. I only hope our population is not too impaired and chronically ill to fight back.

Adriana

As usual, a deeply searching piece. From a British perspective I can only consider that however bad things have been they are set to get immeasurably worse with our National Health Service newly opened up for commercial exploitation. And now we have a pamphlet 'Guidance on cooperation between healthcare professional and the pharmaceutical industry: ethics, transparency, partnership' which comes endosed by:

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
British Pharmacoligical Society
British Medical Association (publishers of BMJ)
Department of Health
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine
Institute of Healthcare Management
The Lancet
Medical Schools Council
National Health Service Confederation
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Royal College of Nursing
The Scottish Government
The Welsh Government

http://www.abpi.org.uk/our-work/library/guidelines/Documents/Guidance%20on%20collaboration.pdf

So, what could possibly be cosier? Or, in the words of Phineas T Barnum "There's one born every minute".

John


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