Odd drug reactions

People with autism, AS, ADHD, TS, SID etc. often react unexpectedly or adversely to many drugs.

Hypersensitivity

Some are hypersensitive to just about everything. For such a person, chances are that medicines will do more harm than good, or that the optimal dose may be a fraction of what is optimal for a less sensitive person. Temple Grandin recommends starting with between 1/4 – 1/2 of a normal dose, especially for children on the spectrum.

“Physicians don’t always understand that those of us who are hyper-sensitive don’t need much in order to get the full effects of a medication. I stay away from aspirin, Tylenol, Advil et al for the most part because only ONE small tablet works as well as 2 sleeping pills for an average person my size. and knocks me out completely (and I mean completely) for at least 8 hours. After that, I’m quite groggy for a good day afterwards.”

‘Raven’, female Aspie from Canada

I have low to zero tolerance for most drugs, stimulants and medicines. If I do have to take any of those few that don’t make me ill, I takes infinitesimally little to get a very strong effect. I get dazed and giggly on a glass of cider, totally speeded by a small cup of coffee, and sleep like a log on half a painkiller.

Ing, site-author

“Zoloft, Cipramil och some other antidipressive I don’t remember the name of, made me dangerously apathetic… could for instance put on morning coffee and sit down on the couch waiting for it to be done… The night after, when I’ve sat completely apathetic for like 15 hours and stared into space, it occurred to me that the coffee might be ready…

“Tried Strattera, for adhd… After having been through a long list of side effects… parts of my body started to go numb – very unnerving and it said nothing about such things on the insert and no doctor could explain it… Eventually I got apathetic by those too – though not to the same degree as from the antidipressants… But I stopped now that I have a child who needs a mother who is awake and cares.

“This last week I’ve been eating Zyban – more known as quit-smoking-pills…

“I tried them once to stop smoking and felt fantastically well. 😀

“Alas, I didn’t stop smoking, but my closest friends said afterwards that they’ve never seen me so nice and with so much energy… They are used as happy-pills and adhd-medication in USA. But what luck comes twice… Yesterday my throat swelled and it got hard to breathe… This morning I checked my tongue in the mirror and noted that it was time for a visit to the doctor – I had big blister-like things sticking out on the sides of my tongue… The doctor had never seen anything like it and gave me antihistamines… so now it’s going down… Don’t think my body likes medicines…

‘Panika’,  female probable Aspie from Sweden

Hypo-sensitivity

Some individuals may have higher-than-average tolerance for drugs & stimulants and tend to get calmed down by things that would speed a typical person up, and vice versa (this is more common in the hyperactive type). Or to not get much of an effect at all, even at high doses.

“I fall asleep if I drink Redbull. Not one but after a few I get tired and fall asleep. Same if I drink 4-5 cups of coffee.”

Paula, female with ADHD/Tourette from Sweden

“Antidepressive: All have very little or no effect. None worked antidepressively even at high doses, only side effects like hypomania and psychosis-like states.

“Risperdone, a neuroleptic: No effect.

“Concerta, a stimulant for ADHD/DAMP only made problems worse, no improved concentration ability, only side effects and depression.

“Sedatives and sleep medication: Large doses are needed for effect. Regular people may take a benzodiazepine to relieve anxiety, I need 10. If I have deep anxiety nothing works, I’d need general anesthesia.

“Pain relievers have poor effect, local anesthesia at the dentist’s doesn’t work well, often they have to give me several extra shots. Not even morphine has much of an effect at low doses.

“Can mention some illegal drugs I’ve taken too:

“Amphetamine: Only anxiety, no buzz even at a high dose.
Heroin: Well, it helped against the menstrual pains. 😀

“Haschish: Nothing, only cough.

“Opium: Eaten and smoked: Nada effect.

“GHB: Got a bit dizzy after having drank a whole glass (normal dose is one teaspoon) then I threw up. No buzz.

“Phenibut: No effect.”

‘sugrövmanövern’, female Aspie from Sweden

Mixed hyper- & hypo-sensitivity

Some are hypo-sensitive to some drugs and hyper-sensitive to others.

“1) Strong reactions I get on SSRI/SNRI where small dosage adjustments has big effects on how I manage daily living and mood. What substance is in it also has huge significance. Exefor is what works best for me.

“2) Weak reactions I have in everything to do with sedatives and pain relief. All local anesthesia usually stops working after 15-20 minutes, much to my dentist’s dismay… usually need horse doses of the strongest sedatives to get an effect at all. (Example: I need AT LEAST 30mg diazepam to notice any difference in what I consider ’mild worry’ – most people would probably sleep rather soundly on such a megadose.)”

‘weasley’, female Aspie from Sweden

I would therefore like to suggest that an evaluation be made to determine the sensitivity level of each individual before any medical prescription is given. If you have had unusual reactions to drugs before, make sure to inform your doctor!

9 Comments »

  1. oliver stieber said,

    can you provide some references for the information in this article?… I’ve been searching on google scholar and can’t find much

  2. oliver stieber said,

    Finally, most, if not all, of the original studies of efficacy in pediatric psychopharmacologogy clinical trials typically exclude individuals with autism and pervasive developmental disorder. Thus, we possess very limited data on pediatric psychopharmacology in the treatment of autistic children and adolescents with these target symptoms and comorbid disorders to help guide clinical practice.
    From the neurobiology of autism
    page 81

    I’d like to find some more definitive resources on this too.

  3. Lynn Hawkins said,

    My son and I are both Aspies and I could write a book on this subject! When I was just a teen, I used to joke that I needed to wear a MedicAlert bracelet that said, “In case of emergency, DON’T DO ANYTHING!” A “normal” dose of anything and my body reacts like it took 10 times the dose (or more). If there is a symptom of a medication that says, “on rare ocassions, may cause – ” That will be the side effect that I get! My son had to have some medical procedures done, and eventually major surgery. We could find NOTHING that would relieve his pain! Finally, an awesome intern in the local hospital’s ER asked me if she could try something and I consented. She gave him a dose of Ativan and then the pain medication and, fortunately, IT WORKED! Now, any times he has to have dental work or medical tests, he gets a prescription of just a couple Ativan’s and everything is fine. A normal dose for him is like taking a placebo. Me, on the other hand, took ONE over the counter Actifed (cold medicine) when I was a teen and went into a semi-coma for 2 1/2 days! Which, of course, totally freaked out my parents! Too much caffeine – I go to sleep. One adult dose of cold medicine and I crash for hours. Chemicals don’t act “normal” in my body or my son’s.

  4. Steffanie Tsau said,

    For the most part, antihistamines are safe. Having said that, antihistamines can have side effects which, if the antihistamine is not properly administered, can be serious. The truth is, all medications have side effects. Some are mild, as in the case of an aspirin, unless you have stomach ulcers or aspirin sensitivity and others are more serious such as the side effects from chemotherapy, but for the most part, antihistamine side effects are fairly mild. The newest antihistamines are probably about the safest medications that there are. But there are differences between the various antihistamines and their side effects.-

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  5. oliver stieber said,

    I’ve done a load of researching and can’t find anything in the litrature, my Dr said this page isn’t good enough as it’s only anacdotal evidence. The two things I did find that could possibly be cited are a talk by tempel gardin and also and interview with Tony Attwood on autism hangout. Nothing at all in the literature though

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  7. CJ said,

    CJ here. Have multiple combat injuries from Bosnis and Germany 20 yrs ago. Have tried several drug combos to no effect. Latest was 2 x 50mg morphine slow release + 4 5 mg morphine +4 baclofen muscle relaxers…per day. After failure to respond , I quadrupled dose and still..nothing. Glad to know I’m not a freak. Trying to find dr that gets it. Have known people on 10 x dosage for .5 of symptoms.

  8. […] embargo sí hay experiencia anecdótica suficiente como para considerar prioritario estudiar esta particularidad. Conozco el caso de una […]

  9. […] embargo sí hay experiencia anecdótica suficiente como para considerar prioritario estudiar esta particularidad. Conozco el caso de una […]


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