View Full Version : Can medication do permanent damage and turn ADHD/Anxiety into Autism?


juneyam
07-27-16, 06:07 PM
My 11yo son was diagnosed with ADHD years ago and more recently, anxiety. We started meds earlier this year - first guanfacine but he reacted badly, then Adderall was added on top of that. Behavior at school was still an issue and his OCD/anxiety was increasing. We tapered off the guanfacine but he was bouncing off the walls even more on Adderall alone so added it back. Then we added Zoloft. Through those months, it wreaked havoc on his body that gradually got worse. He came home tired and cranky, but it was assigned as part of the Adderall crash. But his evening moods got worse and he started exploding emotionally. We tried Zoloft alone but it was still bad. He missed a lot of school in May and June because he couldn't get out of bed. Everything overwhelmed him. He's been meds free for a month now, and he's better than before. But he's still having sensory meltdowns - they look exactly like videos of sensory/Asperger meltdowns on YouTube when I keyword search. He never melted down like this before meds, though he would panic and get upset suddenly by unpredictable triggers. But they didn't turn into this. I have gotten him a weighted lap pad and a body sock, and they both help when he is starting to melt down. But I don't know what to do at this point. I don't think I'll be able to get him to school daily if he's still like this in Sept. Can anyone out there help me? Does anyone have experience like this?

Cyllya
07-28-16, 01:48 AM
I kind of had the opposite happen with me. I have ADHD and undiagnosed SPD-like hypersensitivity, but when I was a kid, my symptoms were more autism-like. (However, I didn't take ADHD meds or antidepressants until after my symptoms seemed to "switch" to ADHD. I've had sensory problems the whole time.)

Anyway, I don't believe there have been any confirmed cases of drug-induced autism (unless maybe you count maternal use during pregnancy), and all the unconfirmed anecdotes I've heard of involved vaccines in infancy, and the kids in question usually had pretty severe communication problems.

Does he have any (new) autism symptoms besides sensory meltdowns? Sensory issues are just one autism symptom.

Sensory problems are pretty common in ADHD (even before psychiatric medication). Sensory issues aren't part of the ADHD diagnostic criteria, but about 40% of kids with ADHD also meet the criteria for sensory processing disorder.

You said he used to be "upset" by stimulation but not actually having meltdowns. Theoretically, that could be caused by some neurological change that made him more sensitive, but other factors could be:
His emotional state. More stress equals more melting. This could be do to situations he's in (school?), or the mood disorders he has, or medication side effects, or hormones/puberty. (Technically, everyone can have meltdowns. It's just that it requires more extreme situations for typical people.)
The stimulation he's exposed to. (Again, school?) Keep in mind that whatever stimulation happened right before the meltdown might be the straw that broke the camel's back, and the main contributor was something that happened earlier. (When I was a kid, I didn't really recognize oncoming overstimulation. I'd just think I was kind of annoyed until I snapped.)
Maybe, how hard he's trying to suppress meltdowns? (When I was a kid, I didn't have any non-meltdown tactics to handle sensory problems, but my parents would be mean to me if I had a meltdown, so I just tried really hard to hide it. I still had a few... and of course I was miserable the rest of the time.)


Here is some more info on sensory issues:
SPD compared to ADHD (http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/793.html)
Hypersensitivity described by an adult who has it (http://cyllyathoughts.blogspot.com/2015/06/about-sensory-issues.html)

I feel like withdrawal from Adderall makes me feel like I'm already overstimulated in situations where I normally wouldn't be, but that effect only lasts for one day after stopping the medication. (Not sure how long guanfacine withdrawal can last. However, I feel like 90% of what I hear about guanfacine is someone talking about horrible mood-related side effects.)

While I was looking up info on sensory issues with ADHD, I found a case study about a single kid who had photophobia (severe vision/light sensitivity) whenever he was on methylphenidate. It was just photophobia though, not overall sensory issues.

sarahsweets
07-28-16, 03:49 AM
What kind of accomodations does he get through the school? Does he have an IEP or is he in special classes?

juneyam
07-28-16, 12:54 PM
Hi sarahsweets, he has a ton of accommodations in his IEP, including a one-on-one aide.
He refused to do any summer camps so has been home all summer. Even with the more relaxed setting at home and no schedule, he still melts down. They've gotten a little more manageable and not as extreme only in the past week. But he gets overloaded, screams on the floor if it gets at intense levels, kicks and throws things sometimes. After the episode, he's exhausted and almost seems to fall asleep. A few minutes after that, he's calm.
My husband and I always suspected Aspergers because he fit the description pretty well. He has no problem with eye contact, but he has intense, intense interests that go really deep. Very rigid and technical, has to correct everyone if anything they say is the least bit inaccurate. He also has OCD and a huge issue with germs.

sarahsweets
07-28-16, 01:19 PM
Hi sarahsweets, he has a ton of accommodations in his IEP, including a one-on-one aide.
He refused to do any summer camps so has been home all summer. Even with the more relaxed setting at home and no schedule, he still melts down. They've gotten a little more manageable and not as extreme only in the past week. But he gets overloaded, screams on the floor if it gets at intense levels, kicks and throws things sometimes. After the episode, he's exhausted and almost seems to fall asleep. A few minutes after that, he's calm.
My husband and I always suspected Aspergers because he fit the description pretty well. He has no problem with eye contact, but he has intense, intense interests that go really deep. Very rigid and technical, has to correct everyone if anything they say is the least bit inaccurate. He also has OCD and a huge issue with germs.

Have you found a therapist that can see him a couple of times a week?

juneyam
07-28-16, 01:51 PM
Yes, he started CBT, though we've had to stop because I literally couldn't get him dressed and out the door, especially at a specific scheduled time. He's generally (not always) better in the morning, but by late afternoon with all the stimulation from the day, he is much more sensitive and easily triggered. His sudden grunting screams and proceeding downward spiral are so unpredictable. A lot of the autism tools have been helpful for him, which we refer to as his sensory toolbox. But he has to use them at the beginning of the overload. Once/if he full blown-out melts down, there's nothing we can do but wait until it's over. He says everything hurts.

juneyam
07-28-16, 01:55 PM
It can be as small as suddenly finding the sticker of his Lego Technic car peeling off and having no glue on hand because we're in the car. (a recent episode) He was in such a panic and demanded that we had to stop at a store that very second to buy glue. By the time we got to our destination (where I offered to buy glue), he had calmed down and was fine with just using the glue at home when we got back.

BellaVita
07-28-16, 03:20 PM
Has he seen a doctor about the meltdowns?

Is it possible he has some sort of sensory processing disorder or has been autistic all along?

I had lots of meltdowns growing up - after I reached a certain age I missed lots of school due to the meltdowns. (Like, months worth) It might be something you just have to deal with.

One thing that might help (if you drive him) is to drive around the school several times to see if he calms down enough to go inside(even though he might be late) - if he just can't do it and keeps having a meltdown then it is useless trying to bring him in and just take him back home. This is what was done for me as a kid/teenager. (I'm autistic)

I hope you can get some answers about your son.

juneyam
07-29-16, 02:05 PM
BellaVita, his doctor knew about the bad meds reactions and decided it would be best for my son to take a one month break from meds before trying again, so it's been a while. His next appointment is next week so I'll update him then about the persistent meltdowns, though they're definitely better than when my son was on Zoloft.
I really do think he's been autistic all along but it must be too high functioning to detect easily. He's also a high performer in school, above grade level in all subjects. I'm a little nervous about him socially having a one on one aide as he enters middle school, but this is really what he needs.
At this point though, there's no telling if I'll be able to reliably even get him to change out of pajamas in the morning, depends how he's feeling. If he gets the slightest bit stressed these days, it can trigger a meltdown. Just today, he had a meltdown when I told him to do his assigned summer math packet. It's over 20 pages so cannot be done last minute.

dadtruth
08-03-16, 11:42 PM
very interesting read on this page i have just learnt so much in 10 mins the medication i am filling my son with might not wok and make him worse in the long run, I am going to have to take a serious look into the med's hes getting fed. It is like if one medications don't work there going through the med rack and pic one at random "yeaaaa try that" some times the medical system scares me

wonderboy
08-13-17, 12:23 AM
There's no research at all, that I am aware of, showing that ADHD medicated with Adderall causes any type of autism. There is also no research with respect to permanent damage, because the brain has what is called plasticity