Please Help: Stop the Use of Medication to Restrain People with Disabilities
The New York Times ran a disturbing piece last week that made the following points about how people with disabilities are medicated when they are in the care of the state of New York:
- Powerful medications with terrible side effects are being given to patients at alarming rates
- There is little oversight or review to how these medications are given, and poorly qualified people make decisions regarding them
- Medication, rather than appropriate supervision or therapy, is being used control problematic behaviors and to restrain people with disabilities such as autism
- Medications are being given at dangerously high does
- Concerns brought up by parents and people working within the system are routinely ignored
Please read the article and understand that what is unique about New York is that The New York Times is located there. I am aware of little evidence that you would not find abuses just as horrifying in any state, if there were interested journalists with the resources to look for them. Massachusetts, for example, which is held up as a positive example in this article, houses the Judge Rotenberg Center, which uses carelessly administered electric shocks to control patients.
So there are two things I would like to ask you to do. The first is easy. Please go here and sign the petition the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has created to stop the use of medication to restrain people who are in the care of New York State. You-- the thAutcast community-- made a crucial difference last week by offering early support to Lydia Brown's petition in support of Christopher Baker. The story of how his mother Julia found him tied up in a ball bag in a school hallway is still getting attention, even in England! CNN even covered it, inevitably replacing Lydia with a rep from (you guessed it) Autism Speaks.
Over 127,000 people have signed Lydia's petition, and you helped make that happen by getting the ball rolling and sharing it. Please do the same with this one.
Okay, that's the easy part.
The hard part is challenging the idea that autistic people should be on medication to control "problem behavior." I want to leave you with some facts about Risperdal from the NYT article. Please think about them.
Risperdal, the second most frequently prescribed, was developed to treat psychotic disorders and has been approved for controlling aggression among people with autism. But its side effects can be extreme, including breast growth in adolescent boys, which in a small number of cases require mastectomies.
And even the use of the drugs to control behavior is questionable. A 2008 study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that psychotropic drugs like Risperdal were less effective at treating behavioral outbursts than placebos.
A resident at Bernard Fineson, a state institution in Queens that is perennially cited for violating drug administration policies, was on a drug diet of Risperdal, Ativan and the antiseizure medication Depakote, but inspectors wrote that “there is no evidence of a team review regarding justification for the current medication regime.”