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Autism linked to many other health issues

Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S.  Challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communications are some of the issues people with autism may experience. But what many don’t know is that those with autism often struggle with an array of other health problems, too.

A new report  from the advocacy group Autism Speaks looks at how and why the neurodevelopmental disorder may be linked to other health problems, including difficulty sleeping, digestive distress, epilepsy, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating challenges, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

“We now know, beyond doubt, that for many people, autism is a whole-body disorder,” the report authors say in their introduction, and the issues can extend throughout a lifetime.

More than half of people with autism have trouble sleeping , according to the report. Thirteen-year-old Colby Rosenblatt is one of them; he has difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

“It has gotten progressively worse and couldn’t get him to bed because he was scared to be alone,” Colby’s mom, Stephanie Udell-Rosenblatt, told CBS News’ Weijia Jiang.

Conditions such as epilepsy and gastrointestinal problems also go hand in hand with autism in many cases, according to the report, “Autism and Health: Advances in Understanding and Treating the Health Conditions that Frequently Accompany Autism.”

Epilepsy, for example, affects 20 to 33 percent of people with autism, compared to an estimated one to two percent of the general population.

Children with autism are nearly eight times more likely to suffer from one or more chronic gastrointestinal problems — abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, constipation and painful stools — compared to typically developing children.

“Co-occurring conditions may be due to just sort of the interplay of autism and the environment. Others are definitely related though to biology,” Dr. Thomas Frazier, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, told CBS News.

While children with autism are much more likely to have chronic gastrointestinal issues, the report reveals there is little evidence that special diets, such as going gluten-free , will help with symptoms.

Mental health issues such as anxiety and ADHD are also common in children with autism, Frazier said.

“We have to really think about them not as just having autism, but autism and whatever else is going on for them. Addressing those other things can make a huge difference in their lives,” Frazier said.

For kids like Colby, doctors recommend exercise, limiting screen time and setting a good bedtime routine.

Colby’s room is cheerful, with painted blue walls decorated with a poster of a world map, and pictures, stuffed animals and photographs on the bureau. A blue tent covers his bed. His parents say the sleep tent helps.

“On a night where Colby gets great sleep, he’s happy. He feels like he’s in control of his body and his emotions,” said his mom.

They also use white noise and nature recordings to put him at ease.

The new Autism Speaks report also stressed that “autism itself is not a cause of


Stealthing during sex raises legal, ethical concerns

A new research paper sheds light on the disturbing practice of “stealthing” — the intentional removal of a condom during sex without a partner’s consent.

The paper , written by Alexandra Brodsky and published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, has garnered much attention on social media, with reactions ranging from appalled outrage to victims sharing their own experiences with this troubling practice.

While Brodsky notes the law is largely silent when it comes to stealthing, she argues that it may violate a number of criminal and civil laws and explores potential legal remedies for victims to seek justice.

The paper includes personal anecdotes from victims of stealthing, some of whom compare it to sexual assault. She also explores an online subculture of men who claim it’s their  “natural male right,” sharing tips with one another on how to pull off stealthing without their partner’s knowledge.

The victims Brodsky interviewed, unsurprisingly, expressed fear of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections . They also reported “a clear violation of their bodily autonomy and the trust they had mistakenly placed in their sexual partner.” Some realized their partner had removed the condom at the moment of re-penetration, while others did not realize until their partner ejaculated. In one instance, a woman said she didn’t know until she was told by her partner the next morning.

Many victims described their search for emergency contraception and appointments for STI tests — a burden their partners often flagrantly dismissed.

Rebecca (whose name, like all other victims Brodsky interviewed, was changed) is quoted as saying: “None of it worried him. It didn’t perturb him. My potential pregnancy, my potential STI. That was my burden.”

“Victims like Rebecca say they do not know what to call the harm and United States courts have not had occasion to address and name the practice,” Brodsky writes. “Their stories often start the same way: ‘I’m not sure this is rape, but. . . .’”

That’s something she’s hoping her paper will help change.

While some tabloid headlines in recent days have referred to stealthing as a new “trend,” Brodsky says her report is not about documenting a rise in the practice. Rather, it is meant to prompt discussion on a little-talked-about topic and possible legal responses to it.

She told CBS News that stealthing is likely nothing new and more common than people might think.

“Since the article was published just this past weekend, I’ve been really overwhelmed by the number of emails and tweets and personal messages I’ve received saying ‘that happened to me,’” she said.

Brodksy writes that men who practice and promote stealthing “root their actions in misogyny and investment in male sexual supremacy,” often citing their “natural male right” to “spread his seed.”

This line of thinking also seems to apply to men who stealth-assault other men, Brodsky explains.

The paper details a number of legal options victims may choose to take, though none of those she interviewed went this route and there is


Bleck! Could fake mucus fight dangerous bugs?

Snot, phlegm and other forms of mucus may not be everyone’s favorite subject, but scientists say synthetic mucus might help save lives.


Kids with autism face other health problems

April 26, 2017, 12:55 PM


Opioid-related deaths may be underestimated

America’s prescription drug abuse epidemic may be even more deadly than expected, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.

Some opioid-related deaths may be missed when people die from pneumonia and other infectious diseases spurred on by drug abuse. Their death certificates may only list the infection as the cause of their demise, explained CDC field officer Victoria Hall.

That means a number of drug-related deaths are not being counted, since surveillance systems mainly track overdose deaths .

“It does seem like it is almost an iceberg of an epidemic,” Hall said. “We already know that it’s bad, and while my research can’t speak to what percent we are underestimating, we know we are missing some cases.”

More than half of a series of drug-related unexplained deaths in Minnesota between 2006 and 2015 listed pneumonia as the cause of death, Hall and her colleagues found.

Twenty-two of these 59 unexplained drug-related deaths involved toxic levels of opioids. But the death certificates didn’t include coding that would be picked up by statewide opioid surveillance systems.

“We found if you have really profound infectious disease, like really bad pneumonia, that may be the only thing written on the death certificate. And thus it’s not going to get picked up in opioid surveillance,” Hall said.

Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in the United States 2015. That’s close to as many deaths caused by traffic crashes that same year, according to federal statistics. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription drug.

This spring, the Minnesota Department of Health learned of a middle-aged man who died suddenly at home, Hall said. Two days earlier, he’d seemed ill and was slurring his words, but refused his family’s pleas to go to the hospital.

“He was on long-term opioid therapy for some back pain, and his family was a little bit concerned he was abusing his medications,” Hall said.

Testing revealed that he died of pneumonia brought on by the flu, “but also detected a very toxic level of opioids in his system,” Hall said.

“However, on the death certificate it only listed the pneumonia, and it listed no mention of opioids, so this death wasn’t counted in the state opioid death surveillance system,” she said.

Opioid medications -- codeine, hydrocodone (including Vicoprofen), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), morphine and others -- can help bring on dangerous respiratory infections or make them even worse, Hall said.

“Opioids at therapeutic or higher than therapeutic levels can impact our immune system, actually make your immune system less effective at fighting off illness,” Hall explained.

The sedative effect of opioids also affects a person’s respiratory system, causing breathing to become slow and shallow, and making the person less prone to cough, Hall said -- “making it easier for something like a pneumonia to really set in.”

A review of Minnesota’s unexplained death database revealed 59 cases with evidence of opioid use. Of those, 22 cases had not been reported to statewide opioid

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