The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently warning against products on the market claiming to “cure” autism. The FDA confirms that there is no cure for the neurodevelopment disorder.
Some of the fraudulent treatments chelation therapies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and detoxifying clay baths—could actually be harmful to the patient.
Autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
The disorder is measured on a spectrum because there is a wide variation in the challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
The FDA has approved certain drugs that can help control autism symptoms, however there is no specific cure for the disorder. The following treatments have circulated, but health officials warn against them as they are not proven to treat autism:
Chelation therapies are available by prescription only, claiming to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. They are used to treat lead poisoning, and can deplete the body of important minerals and lead to serious—potentially life-threatening—problems if not used under professional supervision.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber. It is typically used to treat scuba divers who suffer from decompression sickness.
Raw camel milk and essential oils have been marketed as autism treatments but are not proven safe, nor effective.
“Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases,” said Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “Understand that personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.”
Always check with a health care professional before using a little-known therapy to make sure it does not have any risks.
Photo: Becky Wetherington, CC-BY
Elizabeth Chambers is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.