Times One: Nice to see a positive review in The New York Times of The United States of Autism, which I favorably reviewed a few weeks back. In the great minds think alike category, I wrote this:
" At one level, it's like a bunch of Love It or List It episodes on HGTV jammed together: Host and (unseen) camera crew arrive at the door, family greets them, they go inside and chitchat for a few seconds about their difficult circumstances." I went on to point out that at a deeper level, the quick-cut technique was highly effective.
The Times wrote: "But all should be prepared to forgive the fakey vibe of an HGTV fix-up show, with the happy-faced Mr. Everts being greeted with cheery bonhomie at stop after stop."
The Times didn't like the part where Richard Everts connected with a family member (no spoilers here!). I did. On the other hand, the photo the Times used illustrated what I called my favorite moment in the movie, when a typical sibling who can't really express himself causes Everts to shake with laughter.
The bigger point is the Times reviewed the movie because it opens Friday in Manhattan. Showings there and in LA are prerequisites for Oscar consideration, which this film deserves.
Times Two: Also nice to see an op-ed piece in the same paper this week about Lariam, also called mefloquine, by a man who took it in India and completely lost his memory overnight. "Last week," wrote David Stuart MacLean, "the Food and Drug Administration finally acknowledged the severity of the neurological and psychiatric side effects and required that mefloquine’s label carry a 'black box' warning of them. But this is too little, too late."
He's right about that. The bigger issue is the sentencing hearing this month for the Army sergeant who killed 16 Afghan civilians, apparently while taking the drug. As I've been reporting for more than a decade, the Army, which invented the drug, has been derelict in facing up to its atrocious side affects, which include psychosis, suicide, and homicidal violence. A nice combo when mixed with guns.
Just this week the military put out another worthless report on its exploding suicide rate. As Kelly Patricia O'Meara wrote online, the report is "utter garbage and a complete insult to the men and women of our armed forces," largely because it avoids alltogether the role of prescription drugs in triggering suicides.
"Literally thousands of news articles have been written questioning the connection between the military suicides and increased number of psychiatric drugs being prescribed and 'researchers,' using taxpayer funds, do not even consider it as a possible risk factor? Shameful." And Lariam is not even a psychiatric drug. What mayhem are all the others causing, and how will we ever find out if they won't even acknowledge the damage so clearly wrought by Lariam?
Lariam and the military's broader problem with its pill-popping culture is a parallel situation to the vaccine-autism saga -- an FDA approved, CDC-recommended catastrophe and coverup. I wonder if any of the "skeptic" crowd ever wonders how I could have been right about Lariam but, in their opinion, so very, very wrong about vaccines. I hope it gives them nightmares.
A few weeks back I wrote that Temple Grandin ought to stick to her subject-matter expertise, this after she said on MSNBC that the big increase in autism was "because the definition of autism over the decade has expanded." No, it's not. She also told the aforementioned NYT that if any vaccine has anything to do with autism, it's the MMR.
No, it's not. Clearly the MMR has triggered autism in a lot of kids, but the best evidence is that most of those kids have been set up by immune-damaging triggers, in most cases -- in my view -- earlier vaccines, and especially ones containing thimerosal. There has never, to my understanding, been a standalone MMR autism epidemic, but there sure has been a vaccine-fueled autism epidemic.
Now Grandin's mother, Eustacia Cutler, has wandered well outside her wheelhouse by writing in the Daily Beast that autistic men have an affinity for online child pornography. I read the piece and, wearing my journalism hat, was struck that an editor let it through -- not because of the sensitive subject matter, but because there was not a single case-in-point mentioned.
As Jake Crosby on autisminvestigated.com, and others, have pointed out, this is pernicious nonsense. Apparently Cutler is writing a book in which she will expand on this and other topics. As my own mother would have said, Oh, joy.
Meanwhile, from Cutler's first book, A Thorn in My Pocket, about raising Temple, it's worth recording this passage. Mercurochrome, remember, is organic mercury.
"On the salmon side of the bed, in a metal cage, lives Crusader Mouse, a present to Temple from her buddy Lyman, who lives next door to us in Dedham. Crusader's white back is often painted with a red cross of Mercurochrome to make him look like a Red Cross knight. Each morning, as one of her projects, Temple makes Crusader run along her room strings.
"One morning the children come to me in great distress.
"'Crusader's lying on the floor of his cage. He looks dead.' We decided to take him to the vet.
"'Is he really dead?' The vet nods. "Was it because we painted him with Mercurochrome?'
"'No. The Mercurochrome won't hurt him.'
"'We wanted him to look like a Crusader Knight.'
"'How long have you had Crusader?'
"'A couple of years. He belonged to Lyman first.'
"'How long did Lyman have him.' Everybody looks at each other. Nobody can remember.
"'A couple of years maybe. A long time anyway.'
"'That's a very old mouse. Crusader's lived a long and happy life. He died in his sleep.'
"'Oh.' Relief. Then a new idea.
"'Can we have a funeral?'
"I think we do, though in truth, I don't remember. I'm sure it was a grand funeral with a tin cookie box for a coffin and hymns and 'Amens' and a long, talky obit. We're a family of talkers and, by now, Temple is no exception."
(My hunch: The Mercurochrome probably did kill Crusader. I wonder what it did to Temple.)
On Thursday, my AOA colleague Teresa Conrick took on Simon Baron-Cohen's latest laugh-riot, linking behavioral traits on autistic and anorexic individuals. Any connection, Teresa pointed out, is not psychiatric but likely through the gut, which mediates the immune system and is clearly out of whack in both disorders.
The discussion reminded me of some of Freud's early case studies. In our book, The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic, Mark Blaxill and I argue (apparently for the first time) that those "hysteria" cases were mostly misdiagnosed mercury poisoning.
The first such case was Anna O., who was taken ill while tending her sick father in 1880, just as mercuric chloride was coming into use as an antiseptic.
She had every possible symptom of mercury poisoning, from a chronic cough to loss of peripheral vision to contractures to visual hallucinations -- but Freud decided it was all in her mind.
She also couldn't, or wouldn't, eat. "She had eaten little previously (during her illness), but now she refused nourishment altogether. However, she allowed me to feed her, so that she very soon began to take more food. But she never consented to eat bread."
Freud's co-author Josef Breuer actually treated Anna. As we write in our book: "Breuer treated Anna O. with hypnosis and also began to interview her deeply. Over the next few months, Anna's symptoms worsened dramatically till she was unable to eat. But as Breuer talked with her about her problems -- and spent several hours a week with her -- he thought he noticed something. When they hit on what appeared to be an association between a symptom and some event in the past, the symptom seemed to diminish and even disappear. The first and most dramatic example was that despite her thirst, Anna had stopped drinking water, getting liquid only by sucking on fruit. But one day she mentioned her disgust that someone had let a dog drink from a glass of water intended for humans, and soon after that she took her first sip of water.
"This has been described as the moment when psychoanalysis -- or, as Anna called it, the talking cure -- began."
All this, well, it makes me want to holler. She was anorexic because she was mercury poisoned, for God's sake! As her body was gradually able to detoxify, her symptoms waned.
Autism and anorexia share the misfortune of having fallen into the hands of psychiatrists. I think both are physical disorders, triggered by toxic exposures.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.