In North America, the impacts of things like alcohol tend to be common knowledge, even if we haven’t experienced them ourselves. We’re aware that getting intoxicated will entail sensory distortions, more emotional expressivity (and sometimes volatility), and the impairment of coordination. We’re also aware that, once the intoxication is over, there is often a detoxification period which is much less sought-after. We call this a “hangover”.
Hangovers are a result of profound irritation of just about every body system. Leftover toxins from the intoxication, and waste products created by our bodies’ efforts to metabolize, or clean up those toxins, are aggravating every nerve in the body. Our sensory nerves gather a lot of information, and when they are aggravated, they gather more information. It’s a survival strategy, for our nerves to be more alert when we’re under stress of some kind, but like any strategy, it can become dysfunctional. One way it becomes dysfunctional is called PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So for anyone who is not aware of what a hangover is like, here’s a list of common symptoms (many of which look an awful lot like autism):
❶nausea, indigestion, stomach upset, bowel evacuation, vomiting
❷lights too bright, noises too loud, scent and flavor overwhelming or disgusting
❸balance, motor control, and coordination challenges
❹skin hyper-sensitive to texture, contact, rubbing, and things like clothing seams and labels
❺emotionally reactive, barometer to surrounding emotional climate
How could intoxication and hangovers possibly be relevant to children and adults with autism? Where on earth would they be getting intoxicants from? Well, all autistics tested by the Autism Research Institute have had impaired detoxification systems. We stockpile toxins faster than everyone else. And the lifestyles we choose can surround us with more, or less toxins, depending on where and how we choose to live.
If you don’t have autism, you will be able to take any toxins acquired from outside the body, or created inside the body, and either move those toxins out of the body, or pack them away in belly fat, or other places of higher fat content on your body. You can even end up manufacturing fat cells, to protect the rest of your body from having these toxins floating around in your bloodstream. This is one of the biggest reasons for the current obesity epidemic. Your brain (made of fats) is relatively safe because your blood-brain barrier works well enough, although people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and a few other diseases are also affected.
However, if you’re somewhere in the autistic spectrum, you’re stockpiling more toxins from outside the body, and chances are, you’re creating more toxins inside the body, too. Autistic bodies can’t move these toxins out of the body very well. Most of these toxins are fat soluble; they’re attracted to high concentrations of fat. Unfortunately, the highest concentration of fat in the body is in the brain. And autistics’ blood-brain barrier is compromised; toxins cross right through, and affect learning, thinking, reaction times, and so many other abilities.
When I was in my mid-30s, I learned what a hangover was. I was finally healthy enough that I didn’t have one all the time. Before then, lights were always too bright, noises were always too loud, and scents, flavors, textures, etc. were so easily over-stimulating. Being an adult, and responsible for my own livelihood, I can’t take the weeks, months, or even years off work it would take to detox quickly. So I do it the slow, safe way. I’m looking forward to being a senior, because every year, my quality of life gets better!
Mr. Bobby L Porter -MA
South University of Georgia
College of Arts & Sciences
Science Degree in Psychology - Clinical Psychology
Information collected from a variety of research based resources
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