To medicate or not to medicate … and all the things wrong with anti-vax

CW Anti-vax, death

Medication is a vexed issue for many in the Neurodiversity community. Should you take medication, should you not take medication? Everyone seems to have an opinion and people are keen to tell you what to do in relation to yourself or your child.

I take a lot of medication, mostly for my mental illness (schizoaffective disorder). I need to take this medication. If I don’t take the medication I became either very depressed or very manic and experience psychosis. For me, not taking medication is not an option, even though I would love to be able to stop taking meds. My medication – like lots of medication – has side effects. For me these include weight gain, feeling sedated and tremors. One of my medications (Clozapine) has rare but potentially life-threatening side effects and I have to have regular blood tests and heart scans to ensure that these aren’t happening. Certainly a reason to want to not take medication, but as I mentioned, this is not an option for me. 

Despite the necessity for me to take meds I often have people telling me not to take meds. This tends to make me pretty unimpressed as part of my illness involves a lack of insight about the need for medication. If I am unwell and someone tells me to stop taking my meds I am very susceptible to this. I get quite angry when people tell me I don’t need meds or that the symptoms of my illness are in fact side effects form the medication. My theory is that people should refrain from giving advice to people which involves them stopping any medication unless that person is their doctor!

It isn’t as simple as that though. There is a reason many neurodiverse  people are wary of medication. Medications have been used as a sort of chemical straitjacket. In fact this is happening right now especially in institutional settings. People are easier to manage if they are sedated. Neurodiverse people are often misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions and given inappropriate medication. And autistic people particularly  can respond atypically to medication, either needing a lot more than others or a lot less. When clinicians do not understand the needs or neurodiverse people there can be errors around medications. In some situations people have died as a result of poorly prescribed medication and a lack of knowledge by clinicians.

That being said there are a lot of reasons that medication is very positive for neurodiverse people. ADHD medications have been a life saver for many people – kids and adults – and many autistic people benefit from things like melatonin for sleep and low does of some antipsychotic medications for addressing repetitive thoughts and anxiety. Basically the decision to medicate for such tings is that of the individual who will be taking the meds or parent of the individual and needs to be made in consultation with a competent doctor. It is not appropriate to give people advice based on small amounts of information. When someone is deciding to medicate themselves or their child the last thing they need is everyone they know piling unhelpful advice on them.

However the is one area which is unequivocal and that is vaccinations for kids. A couple of years ago I told friends I planned to post about anti-vax and they said ‘are you sure…?’ as the anti-vax people can be pretty full on but I figure it needs to be said. And said again. For the twenty thousandth time. Anti-vax is nonsense and very dangerous nonsense at that.

The idea that vaccinating kids makes them autistic has been disproved in countless peer-reviewed, reputable studies but it persists. Not vaccinating kids leads to deaths and infection. It ithreatens to bring back diseases like polio which up until recently were considered controlled. Not vaccinating kids puts other kids and those with compromised immune systems at grave risk. 

Anti-vax confuses causation and correlation by comparing the rise in autism diagnosis rates with the rise in vaccination with the MMR vaccine. While there is a correlation (ie the graphs match each other) there is no causal link. You can compare the rise of all sorts of things with the rise in autism diagnoses but it is simply a correlation – two things occurring at similar rates at the same time. Correlation does not prove a linkage or cause for the two things. 

As an advocate one of my biggest issues with anti-vax is the message it sends about autism. If you believe that vaccinating your child causes autism so elect not to, you are demonstrating that you would prefer your child to potentially die than be autistic. That is a very sorry state of affairs and tells me as an autistic person that autistic people have no right to be here.  The person who is responsible for devising anti-vax in is current, anti-autistic form, Andrew Wakefield, has been stripped of his medical degree but is still active in peddling this hateful theory. One thing which really worries me about anti-vax is that it positions itself as an ‘alternative’ movement, challenging the status quo. I can tell you now that it is not an act of rebellion to not vaccinate a child. It is an act of foolishness and recklessness.

Anti-vax is dangerous, offensive nonsense.Untitled design-3

3 thoughts on “To medicate or not to medicate … and all the things wrong with anti-vax

    1. Thank you. I have amended it to reflect that. What I meant was that Wakefield created the current, anti-autistic form of anti-vax but evidently wasn’t clear enough. All addressed now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. YES!!! A friend’s son & his wife recently had a baby and they were asking us about vaccines, because of all the (mis)information about autism and vaccines. The son knows Ben. We 100% advised vaccination. I use the same argument… even IF there was some relation (which there’s NOT), autistic is better than ill or dead. How many thousands of people arent autistic and were vaccinated?
    Thank you, Yenn for posting this!

    Like

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