Showing posts with label Nicotine patch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicotine patch. Show all posts

Friday, 21 July 2017

Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) and Cannabidiol (CBD) in Autism

Today’s post is another one to fill in some of the gaps in this blog.
Psychiatrists have long been using electric shocks, of one kind or the other, to treat their patients. There is even a special school in the US (the Judge Rotenberg Center) where they used electric shocks as aversive therapy, until very recently.  

Cannabis, in the form of Cannabidiol (CBD), is currently the subject of an autism trial in Israel, home to some very innovative people.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock therapy, and often referred to as shock treatment, is a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to provide relief from mental disorders. The ECT procedure was first conducted in 1938 is often used as a last line of intervention for major depressive disorder, mania, and catatonia.
As of 2001, it was estimated that about one million people received ECT annually.
Several hundred people with autism have been treated with ECT in the US. 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Do not confuse ECT with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a magnetic method used to stimulate small regions of the brain. During a TMS procedure, a magnetic field generator is placed near the head of the person receiving the treatment. The coil produces small electric currents in the region of the brain just under the coil via electromagnetic induction. This is rather similar to the way the base station of a rechargeable electric toothbrush works.
A big fan of TMS is Manuel Casanova, a neurologist and Autism blogger. 

A while back I watched a BBC documentary following an autistic girl adopted from a Serbian orphanage by a US family. All was going well until she later developed a serious problem with aggression and self-injury that was being treated by monthly visits to the hospital for electroconvulsive therapy.  The shocks did indeed seem to do the trick and suppress her aggressive tendencies. She is an example of what I call double tap autism, where an autistic person later suffers a profound setback for some reason. 


My Child, ECT (electric shock) and Me (click the picture below)

Long article from Spectrum News:- 

What I found interesting was that you could see that when you took away the SIB, the girl was pretty high functioning. She could read, write and do math.

This made me recall a previous idea of mine that you might grade people’s autism in terms of both their good days and their bad days.  So on a scale of 100, this girl might have been 30/100.  On a bad day she was a major danger to herself and those around her and so she scored 100, but on a good day she was able to be part of the family and be educated.  She clearly had autism but not such a severe kind, so she might score a 30.
The point missed by the BBC was that in this example, electric shock therapy was not an autism therapy, it was an SIB therapy and it appears to have been a pretty effective one.
Many people with autism do not have flare-ups, they do not have SIB; they are pretty constant in their behavior, so they might be a constant 30/30.  


Much is written on the internet about the use of cannabis for all kinds of conditions, the ones relevant to this blog are autism and epilepsy.  There is a study currently underway in Israel where they are using CBD oil, the non psychoactive part of cannabis, as an autism therapy.
As you might expect they had no difficulty recruiting people to participate in the study, which is still ongoing. 

Dr. Aran is the Director of the Neuro-pediatric unit in Shaare Zedek Medical Center and his latest research involves treating the symptoms of autism using medical marijuana. “So far,” Aran tells NoCamels, “our impression is that it’s working.”

The clinical study began in January 2017 in Jerusalem at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center. There are 120 participants, including children and young adults, diagnosed with various degrees of ASD ranging from mild to severe. Dr. Aran hopes to have final results by December 2017.

According to Dr. Aran, “there are theories” for why medical cannabis can alleviate symptoms of autism, “but we don’t know exactly how. There are theories and models but we don’t know. It can’t be explained.”

This is worrisome given that cannabis is being given to children with little knowledge of why or how it may help. Of course, “We are worried with children because of the long-term impact. But it is considered mostly safe and we have already tested it with epilepsy.” Other studies, like the one published in Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy 2016, conducted in Israel, successfully demonstrated that cannabis reduced the number of seizures of children with epilepsy. Nonetheless, Aran admits that “There are always worries that something will happen that we don’t know about.”

It is key to note that the participants are receiving cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound, as opposed to the more commonly known tetrahyrdrocannabinol (THC), which creates the “high” feeling. Therefore, the benefits they seem gain from the treatment “help the children cooperate more,” reduce behavioral problems, and “improve their functioning.”

While the study offers much hope for the children and families affected by ASD, Aran warns that “It won’t cure the symptoms, that’s for sure. It will never cure autism. But it certainly can help the quality of life of the families.” 

The lead researcher recently made some revealing comments, he suggested that the results so far are very positive and that it seems that the quality of life has been improved but it does not cure the symptoms. That made be draw the connection to the adopted child in the US; the therapy does indeed seem to be helpful because it is treating the “100” in the 30/100. So it may not improve cognition or reduce stereotypy, but it makes life better, just like the girl receiving the electric shocks.  Hopefully when they publish the results Dr Aran will be much more precise as to the effect of his therapy, since perhaps I am inferring too much from his comments. 

Why does any of this matter?

Well if you want to solve a problem, you have to define it and the more precisely you can define it, the more likely you are to find a solution.
If you have a girl who is a stable 30/30 with no SIB and no epilepsy, it might well be shown that neither electric shocks nor CBD oil will help here.
If you have a girl who is 30/100 with SIB and epilepsy it might well be the case that both electric shocks and CBD oil might help here; but it appears that neither will improve her core autism (which is the 30).

Mode of Action

Neither the doctors using electric shocks nor CBD oil claim to fully understand the mode of action. There are of course various plausible theories.
In the case of CBD it is an antagonist of GPR55, a G protein-coupled receptor and putative cannabinoid receptor that is expressed in the caudate nucleus and putamen in the brain. It has also been shown to act as a 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist, and this action may be involved in the antidepressant, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective effects of cannabidiol. It is an allosteric modulator of the μ- and δ-opioid receptors as well.  Cannabidiol's pharmacological effects have additionally been attributed to PPARγ agonism and intracellular calcium release.


Do the therapies “work”?

What we have seen in this blog to date is that there are very many things that do seem to help specific people.  It is sometimes hard to figure out for sure the mode of action; but if high doses of biotin, or vitamin B6, or anything else consistently improve someone’s condition over years of use you have to take note.
The electric shocks did indeed seem to successfully control SIB for 3-4 weeks.  Maybe someone clever might figure out the biological cause triggering her SIB and so provide an alternative  drug therapy, but for now it seems she will go once a month for more shocks.
There are people who think long term use of CBD oil will have negative effects and I guess monthly electric shocks may also have some unforeseen consequences.
The Israeli researchers seem pretty keen on pursuing CBD oil and so they may well end up with a large enough clinical trial to make people take notice.
I do not see hundreds of parents signing up to a clinical trial of electric shock therapy, so it looks likely to be a niche therapy used by one or two clinicians.
CBD oil is the sort of therapy that will appeal to many parents and it is being trialed on so many different people we will soon know if there are harmful long term effects.

My Take

It looks to me that electroconvulsive therapy is rather crude and while it does evidently help some people, it might not be without serious risk. If the person has uncontrollable SIB, it looks a risk worth taking.
Short term use of CBD oil looks a safer bet, but if the effect required is just calming/sedating there may be other ways to achieve this.  Many parents are already using CBD oil as a home autism therapy.
There are hundreds of clinical trials completed, or in progress, using CBD to treat everything from ulcerative colitis to anxiety. It is being trialed in schizophrenia and even Dravet Syndrome and other kinds of epilepsy.  There is even a trial of a CBD chewing gum to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome. CBD actually now has designated orphan drug status with the FDA for Dravet Syndrome.
I have no plans to use either therapy; I seem to have addressed the variable nature of my case of autism.  I am more interested in treating the core autism symptoms, the “30” in the 30/100; it is clear that much more remains possible.  

Tackling the “30”

An interesting recent finding came from a study on Oxytocin at Stanford. This time researchers had the good sense to actually measure the level of the oxytocin hormone in the blood of the trial participants before and after they started having oxytocin squirted up their noses. 

Not surprisingly it was people with low natural levels of oxytocin who were the favorable responders and interestingly those in the placebo group who also responded actually increased their natural level of oxytocin production.
As we know there are other ways to increase you level of oxytocin, one of which is via certain L. reuteri probiotic bacteria.
Oxytocin would fit in the tackling the “30” category, for those with naturally lower levels of this hormone.
The Stanford researcher is again Dr Hardan, from that interesting phase 2 trial of the antioxidant NAC.  He is now planning a larger oxytocin trial. Has he forgotten about making a phase 3 trial of NAC?   

Self Injurious Behavior (SIB)

You do wonder why some clinician does not compile a list of all the known causes and therapies for self-injurious behavior (SIB) in autism.  There is even a study planned at Emory University to test the efficacy of NAC to treat SIB, but with only 14 participants, I do not really see the point.
We do know that a small number of people with SIB respond well to NAC. If just 10% are responders, you would need a really large trial prove anything at all. With 14 participants you should have just one, but as luck might have it, it could be none.
With a more scientific/engineering approach you might identify five sometimes effective SIB therapies, and then go systematically through testing each therapy on each person with SIB. Then you would have some useful data.    
As I mentioned in a recent comment, the late Bernie Rimland from ARI, was a big believer in high dose vitamin B6 to treat SIB.  For some people it is a nicotine patch, for my son in summer it is an L-type calcium channel blocker.
The reality is that numerous complex dysfunctions can lead to SIB, but so do some simple things like untreated pain and inflammation, which could be from IBS/IBD or even tooth eruption/shedding or just tooth decay.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Comorbidities in Autism and the Curious Cleaning Lady

Regular readers will know that I believe in the value of investigating the comorbidities of autism. 

We have a cleaning lady who comes each week to help keep our house in order.  She also understands the value of comorbidities. She is one of my independent observers, in changes in the behaviour of Monty, aged 10 with ASD.  She has a friend, whose husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is not autism, but they are both examples of brain damage.

Still in his early 50s, the husband does not recognize his children and cannot leave home.  The expert Professor, treating him privately, was not halting the rapid decline.
So the cleaning lady asks me about all my investigations and decides that she might as well tell her friend.  She decided to suggest the antioxidant NAC and the cholinergic stimulant nicotine.

Well, after NAC, the husband was able to make it to the WC and do his business.  A small step forward.
After a day with the nicotine patch, things really changed so much that the family decided that they should seek a second opinion, this time from a doctor, yet to publish a book.

Doctor number two decided that it is not Alzheimer’s after all, and the prescribed medicines of the last three years were only making things worse.  And the new therapy? Nicotine patches.

The conclusion is self-evident. 

The next related conditions I will be investigating are cluster headaches, febrile seizures and absence seizures.



Monday, 21 October 2013

Piracetam for Autism, Comrades

Piracetam was first synthesized in 1964 by a Romanian scientist called Corneliu Giurgea, who was highly unusual.  He was educated in then communist Romania, followed by research in Russia and then at the University of Rochester in the US, before ending up in Belgium, eventually as the Head of Research at drug firm UCB and being a Professor at a Belgian university.  How this was possible under the strict form of communism followed in Romania,  I do not really understand.

Anyway, Giurgea was clearly very resourceful and he decided to invent a new class of drugs, to be called Nootropic.
He stated that Nootropic drugs should have the following characteristics:
1.     They should enhance learning and memory.
2.     They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them (e.g. electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia).
3.     They should protect the brain against various physical or chemical injuries.
4.     They should increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms.
5.     They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs (e.g. sedation, motor stimulation) and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity.

Piracetam was soon followed by other drugs developed by competitors.
This class of drug seems never to have been licensed in the US, but was used widely in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and some western European countries.
As seems all too common in medicine, nobody knows for sure how Piracetam works.  There are many proposed mechanisms and I was attracted by one of them.

Autism in Ukraine
The internet does give the impression of giving you all the answers.  Often it gives you far too much information, much of it of dubious quality.  In reality, you are only seeing what is written in English, and although it is the international language of science and medicine, you will never see the majority of Russian, Japanese and Chinese knowledge/research.  Medical practice varies widely between Western medicine and the others.
In Japan for example, the MMR vaccination has been banned since 1993 and Prozac, the anti-depressant prescribed in huge quantities in the US, is a banned substance.  
So it was not a surprise to find only passing references to apparently widespread use of Piracetam for autism in the Ukraine, going back for decades.  I have no doubt if you could access the Russian research you would find studies on this.

Side Effects
There is no shortage of drugs prescribed in the US for autism, such as Ritalin, Prozac and Risperidone.  I have no doubt that they have some very good qualities; however they all have very real side effects, some of which are permanent.  Giurgea was very wise to only consider drugs with very few side effects and low toxicity.

In the 50 years since he synthesized Piracetam, one thing everyone seems to agree on, is that either it has no side effects, or it has very minor side effects.

Does Piracetam work?
In the 1970s there were numerous studies on Piracetam in a wide range of neurological conditions.  Today Piracetam is extensively used “off label” as a treatment for many of those conditions.  Does Piracetam work in autism?

I guess the doctors in the Ukraine must think it works.  Dr Akhondzadeh, a researcher into autism, ADHD, and other mental health conditions in Iran, found it to be effective.  Kelly Dorfman of the Development Delay Resources in Pittsburgh thinks it is effective for learning disabilities and dyspraxia, but less so for autism.
Olga Bogdashina, President of the Autism Society of Ukraine, notes that piracetam is widely used as an autism treatment in the Ukraine. Having conducted her own small-scale study, she found that piracetam improved the attention spans and mental capabilities in the majority of participating children. She also says that her autistic son became more sociable and flexible and less aggressive on the supplement. She does warn that during the initial phase of treatment, hyperactivity and tantrums may increase. However, researcher Stephen Fowkes notes that these side effects are only common with high doses, and asserts that they are rare with standard doses (both cited in “Letters to the Editor, Autism Research Review International, 1996).

I thought Bogdashina’s name was familiar.  I read her book on sensory issues in autism.  It is a good read, but it does not really tell you what to do.

Piracetam’s claimed possible methods of action
·        It is NOT a sedative or a stimulant

·        Piracetam is a positive allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor.

·         It is hypothesized to act on ion channels or ion carriers; thus leading to increased neuron excitability

·         GABA brain metabolism and GABA receptors are not affected by piracetam.

·         Piracetam improves the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine via muscarinic cholinergic (ACh) receptors, which are implicated in memory processes

·        Furthermore, piracetam may have an effect on NMDA glutamate receptors, which are involved with learning and memory processes.

·        Piracetam is thought to increase cell membrane permeability

·        Piracetam may exert its global effect on brain neurotransmission via modulation of ion channels (i.e., Na+, K+).

·        It has been found to increase oxygen consumption in the brain, apparently in connection to ATP metabolism, and increases the activity of adenylate kinase in rat brains.

·        Piracetam, while in the brain, appears to increase the synthesis of cytochrome b5, which is a part of the electron transport mechanism in mitochondria.

·        But in the brain, it also increases the permeability of the mitochondria of some intermediaries of the Krebs cycle.

In 2005 there was an interesting review carried out in Poland; it is very readable.

"Piracetam is generally reported to have minimal or no side effects. It is interesting to note, however,  that piracetam is occasionally reported side effects of anxiety, insomnia, agitation, irritability  and tremor are identical to the symptoms of excessive acetylcholine/glutamate neuroactivity. In spite of these effects, piracetam is generally not considered to be a significant agonist or inhibitor of the synaptic action of most   neurotransmitters. The piracetam-type nootropic drugs might exert their
effect on some species of molecules present in the plasma membrane. It would seem that they act as potentiators of an already present activity, rather than possessing any neurotransmitter-like activity of  their own."

It would seem to me that we have come back to the vagus nerve and the Cholinergic system

I learnt in that post that there are two main classes of acetylcholine receptor (AChR), nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChR).  Mostly it seems to be the nicotinic type that is targeted by medical science, but piracetam has an effect on the other type of receptor.  This would explain excessive use of piracetam causing symptoms of too much acetylcholine.
If this is indeed the case, that would add yet another method of “correcting” the known biomarker of autism that is “diminished acetylcholine and nicotinic receptor activity”.  Of all the methods I have so far investigated, this might actually be the safest;  it is certainly inexpensive.

Effect on Comorbidities
My method of separating fact from fiction in autism now includes looking at the effect of therapies on the principal comorbidities of autism.  Most genuinely effective drugs seem to work across many comorbidities.  Epilepsy is the most prevalent comorbidity.

"CONCLUSIONS—This study provides further evidence that piracetam is an effective and safe medication in patients with Unverricht-Lundborg disease. In addition, it shows that a dose of 24 g is highly beneficial, more effective than lower doses and that a dose-effect relation exists. There is considerable variation in optimal individual dosage. "
Note:  Unverricht–Lundborg disease is the most common form of an uncommon group of epilepsy called the progressive myoclonus epilepsies.

Piracetam seems to be a safe supplement/drug that improves mood and reduces aggression (and SIBs).  I thought it was worthwhile testing and indeed I was not disappointed.  The dosage suggested is 50-100 mg/kg, but the optimal dose seems to vary by child.  If you follow my vagus nerve/neuroinflammation/ cholinergic way of thinking, then Piracetam would be acting (via acetylcholine) to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and hence reduce inflammation in the autistic brain.  This would mean that Piracetam would be a useful tool to control autism flare-ups, be they triggered by pollen allergy, intestinal inflammation, or even stress.  I shall use it as such.

As for why Piracetam seems more effective in the Ukraine than in Pittsburgh - that I can answer.  Much of what passes as autism in Pittsburgh, would be completely ignored in Kiev.  It would not be diagnosed as autism; only if it is disabling would it be called autism.  If you have "autism-lite", the symptoms are mild and you probably do not need Piracetam and it would likely have little effect.   The same would apply for the majority of ADHD/ADD cases, outside of the US they would not be diagnosed as such.
If you are on Ritalin for your severe ADHD, you might want to try Piracetam.  If you Google ADHD and Piracetam, you will find adults using Piracetam to avoid the side effects of Ritalin.
If your child suffers from SIBs (self-injurious behaviours) then Piracetam, along with nicotine patches, would be well worth investigating.




Monday, 14 October 2013

IBS, IBD and Autism, leading to Cholinergic Signaling and the Vagus Nerve

This post is all about those stomach problems typical of many kids with ASD and some of their neuro-typical close relatives. Since Monty, aged 10 with ASD, does not have any of these problems, it is not something I have looked into earlier.  As you will see later in this post, by understanding the underlying science, we can move another step towards inhibiting systemic inflammation, which affects all people with ASD.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD),
First of all we need to differentiate two common conditions with very similar symptoms.  IBS is the less serious condition, though it causes lots of discomfort.
Irritable Bowel syndrome - IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers show no sign of disease or abnormalities when the colon is examined.

IBS does not produce the destructive inflammation found in IBD. It does not result in permanent harm to the intestines, intestinal bleeding, or the harmful complications often occurring with IBD. People with IBS are not at higher risk for colon cancer, nor are they more likely to develop IBD or other gastrointestinal diseases
The exact cause of IBS is unknown.   The most common theory is that IBS is a disorder of the interaction between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, although there may also be abnormalities in the gut flora and immune system.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease -  IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The major types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

Crohn’s disease has a strong genetic component and is far more prevalent among smokers.  The usual onset is between 15 and 30 years old.
Ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease with no known cause.  The symptoms are very similar to Crohn’s disease, but there are some stark differences.  Ulcerative colitis is far less prevalent among smokers

Autistic Colitis / Ulcerative Colitis
The Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that seems to be relevant in Autism is ulcerative colitis, so much so that Wakefield and Krigsman sought to name a sub-type Autistic Enterocolitis.  Due to all the furore about vaccinations and autism, the research of these two gastroenterologists has been blacklisted.

Dr Krigsman has an informative website and has published some interesting research.
If you spend all day looking via the endoscope  at children with ASD, you are bound to notice a thing or two.  Ignoring what Krigsman observes is bizarre.

In case you are wondering what he does, he is going through the mouth to do an Upper Endoscopy; for the Colonoscopy he goes in from below.  He does both procedures under general anaesthetic.  That will be painless; I once had an endoscopy under general anaesthetic and you have no bad effects.  I had the misfortune to have another one without any anaesthetic, which was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life.
Ulcerative colitis looks like a nasty condition but Krigsman finds it is generally treatable with some combination of anti-inflammatory medication, antimicrobials, probiotics, digestive enzymes and dietary restriction.

One thing he does not mention is nicotine, more of that later.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a very common disease.  The acid within the stomach rises up into the esophagus and in doing so, damages its lining.

Most children will outgrow their reflux by their first birthday. However, a small but significant number of them will not outgrow the condition. This is particularly true when a family history of GERD is present.   It is estimated that 15% of adults of adults are affected by GERD.
Krigsman find that in kids with ASD and their siblings, GERD is relatively common.

Mechanisms linking IBS and IBD to Autism
I have already written about the link between food allergies, autism and behaviour.  In those posts it was histamine released from mast cells (along with cytokines and other nasties) that was the culprit.  The treatments included antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers (Ketotifen, Intal etc).  I would presume this would fall into the IBS category.

When it comes to IBD, things get interesting.
In 1936 the Nobel Prize for Physiology was awarded to Sir Henry Dale and Otto Loewi.  One had identified the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the other had shown how the vagus nerve releases acetylcholine to control heartbeat.

It later became apparent how important the vagus nerve is.  The vagus nerve is a modulator of inflammation throughout the body.  Acetylcholine, the principle neurotransmitter released by the vagus nerve, can exert its anti-inflammatory effect via binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), which are expressed on macrophages and other immune cells.
In a recent post I showed that autistic brain samples have diminished acetylcholine and nicotinic receptor activity.  I showed how this could be corrected either by drugs that mimic acetylcholine (eg nicotine or acetylcholine) or with an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (Galantamine or Donepezil).

I found it very interesting that IBD can be successfully treated by mild smoking (3 cigarettes a day) or with nicotine patches. 
This then connects various comorbidities in a very useful way and opens up therapeutic directions.  The vagus nerve is also key to epilepsy.  Vagus nerve stimulation is currently used to treat epilepsy and depression.

Experimentally, vagus nerve stimulation is already used in autism.  


Patients with ASD and intractable epilepsy respond as favorably as all other patients receiving VNS therapy. In addition, they may experience a number of QOL improvements, some of which exceed those classically observed following placement of a VNS device.


Kevin J. Tracey
A neurosurgeon and inventor, Kevin Tracey, is the man behind the inflammatory reflex.  The inflammatory reflex is a neural circuit that regulates the immune response to injury and invasion. All reflexes have an afferent and efferent arc. The Inflammatory reflex has a sensory, afferent arc, which is activated by cytokines, and a motor, or efferent arc, which transmits action potentials in the vagus nerve to suppress cytokine production. Increased signaling in the efferent arc inhibits inflammation and prevents organ damage.
We will be looking at his research and the Cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, in later posts