There has been a spike in the diagnosis of autism in young children over the last two decades. Most doctors might argue that it is simply a better awareness of the signs and symptoms of this developmental disorder, but researchers who are focusing on finding a cause and then a "cure" find links in the most unusual of places. Recently, a study conducted in Barcelona, Spain revealed some very interesting links between autism, ADHD, and the maternal use of acetaminophen during pregnancy. Here is more on that study, and how it may direct autism treatments

Acetominophen: The Pain Reliever of Choice for OB/GYNs and Their Pregnant Patients

Everyone knows that pregnancy takes its toll on the human body. It is a very painful and uncomfortable condition most of the time. Most people are also aware of the fact that the majority of pain-relieving medication can harm an unborn child. Aspirin can cause brain bleeds and lead to heart problems in the fetus. Other pain relievers can cause birth defects. It has long been assumed that acetaminophen is completely safe for pregnant women and their unborn children, which is why over the last two decades this medication for pain has been the only one that OB/GYNs have allowed their pregnant patients to take.

The Barcelona Study

This study traced cases of autism and ADHD back to the prenatal days of development, looking for common factors. In nearly all of the cases, the mothers took a lot of acetaminophen for pain. To confirm a possible link, the researchers looked at the impact of this drug on developing brains of research animals and then looked at scans of the brains of children with autism/ADHD. There seemed to be some correlation and possible causation. It needs more research, but it definitely would explain why thousands of women were suddenly having children with autism and ADHD.

How This Discovery May Direct Treatments

Further research is needed, but if it is found to be true that acetaminophen has caused all these cases of autism and ADHD, researchers can begin to look at this drug at its chemical structure. Then they can figure out how the drug altered brain development and chemistry, and then find something that might either reverse it or lessen the symptoms of autism and/or ADHD. Studies may even continue to examine if it is even possible for this drug to have been the source of thousands of new cases of autism and ADHD every year since 1997.