The lack of clinical research means that parents are unable to officially treat their children’s autism with CBD medication, however that hasn’t stopped some mothers from trying. About one in 68 American kids are thought to be on the autism spectrum, and scientists think that CBD could help manage symptoms.
The anecdotal evidence shows that the non-hallucinogenic marijuana molecule helps with autism more than many powerful prescription meds. This post will tell the stories of those mothers who are convinced about the benefits of CBD-only products and whole-plant cannabis for treating autism.
Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts how people interact and communicate – it is often referred to as a spectrum as those with it are affected in different ways to varying extents. People with autism generally find it more difficult to have conversations and make eye contact and they may engage in repetitive behaviors. Autistics are known to have impassioned, focus interests and may have sensory sensitivities too. Not all autistic people display such behavior, however, hence why it’s called a spectrum.
It’s common for autistics to suffer with other medical complications, including insomnia, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, phobias and gastrointestinal disorder. This is where cannabidiol (CBD) comes in. The compound has demonstrated an ability to treat all of these. Those with autism can enjoy a much higher quality of life if their other issues are taken care of.
The communication barrier can make it harder for autistic to discuss their symptoms with others and find the appropriate treatment. The lack of sufficient help can lead autistics to self-harm, anxiety and unhelpful behaviors which provide short-term relief but long-term problems, such as comfort eating. The anxiolytic and relaxing properties of CBD come in handy here.
Autism and the endocannabinoid system explained
To understand how CBD can help with autism, it’s important to have a grasp of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), as deficiencies here are the root cause of many autism symptoms. The ECS is a regulatory system that manages sleep patterns, pain perception, pleasure and reward systems, motor control, short-term and long-term memory, appetite and mood.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, from the skin to the brain. In 2013, a study revealed how there are failings in the cannabinoid receptors of autistic children, particularly with how these receptors work on the body’s immune system. Scientists consider this a eureka moment in autistic research and are now seriously entertaining treating autism with cannabinoid medicines.
Shifra Klein is a parent who is firmly in favor of CBD medication. Shifra’s 12-year-old son has had autism for a decade and doctors have tried more than a dozen medication plans to deal with symptoms.
Klein reports that her son is almost fully off the strong prescription drugs thanks to CBD treatment. The cannabis-based medication has improved his concentration levels at schools, allowed him to become more involved with class and advance his learning. Understanding new concepts is also easier than it once was. Klein says her son makes better eye contact and uses more thought-out language when communicating with others. He also enjoys more happiness overall.
It’s clear that CBD has been a success story for Shifra’s son. But the absence of clinical research to prove this treatment works is stopping many states from adding it to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Undeterred, mothers supportive of treating autism with CBD have formed Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), an activist group.
Klein has first-hand experience of the stigma surrounding medical cannabis, as both a parent and early education teacher. She empathizes with parents who are unsure or worried about the backlash about treating their kids’ autism with CBD, even though it’s not hallucinogenic.
While highly supportive of CBD, Klein still recommends that parents of autistic children still explore other treatment avenues, and to think of CBD as an accompaniment, not necessarily a replacement. However, this obviously depends on the circumstances.
Finding the correct CBD dosage can take some experimentation, according to Klein. But taking the time to study the effects of various dosages reaps the rewards in the long run. Klein says that parents should ensure that they only buy CBD from reliable vendors and brands, where third-party lab tests can provide an extra seal of approval on the quality of a product.
Klein said that she would “never recommend” a treatment to a child that she wouldn’t administer to her own. She looked to dispel parents’ concerns, mentioning that there’s no chance of overmedicating or harming your child by trialling CBD treatment.
Why existing autism medications have failed
Many of the drugs prescribed to autistic children are strong and have side effects – Abilify and Seroquel are two prominent examples. These anti-psychotic meds aren’t even intended to be given to children or to treat autism, they are just the best the mainstream has to offer. This is why CBD is having such a positive impact.
Abigail Dar, a mother of an autistic son, has voiced her worries about the antipsychotic drugs which are prescribed to children with autism, pointing out that there are no lifelong studies confirming the safety of these pharmaceuticals. Dar, who advocates cannabis as treatment for autism in Israel, a hotbed for cannabis research adds that Seroquel, Abilify and the like are not made for young children, especially those as young as five.
Stomach pain, weight gains, drowsiness and dizziness are common side effects from taking these antipsychotic drugs. It’s bizarre and unacceptable that they remain the primary treatment for autism. Many parents have said that it puts their children into zombie-like states, making it even harder for them to deal with their social disabilities. Dar questions how it can be right to give antipsychotic drugs to children “who can’t communicate how they feel.”
Furthermore, according to Dar, antipsychotic meds like Abilify have a side effect which lowers the seizure threshold. Since autistic children are more vulnerable to seizures – nearly one in three people with autism also have epilepsy – this is a serious concern. Dar reckons that her son’s epilepsy, which he did not contract until the age of 16, was not a symptom of autism but a direct side effect of antipsychotic medication.
Dar wonders why doctors are prescribing medication which increases the risk of seizures to children who are already at a higher risk of getting epilepsy than the rest of the population.
However, parents are finding that marijuana – and specifically CBD – works better than Seroquel and the like and is nowhere near as dangerous. High-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil has no hallucinogenic side effects and, at worst, only induces drowsiness. CBD is a wonderful natural chemical for autistic children to medicate with, as it re-engages them with other people instead of isolating them further.
There definitely seems to be a future for CBD in treating autism. The anecdotal stories are now too great in number for scientists to ignore, and it’s now up to experts to confirm just why CBD is so much more effective than current medication. Families are becoming increasingly sceptical of pharmaceuticals, understandably given the situation with autism. It’s likely that even more people will gravitate to natural cannabinoid treatments as the benefits become even clearer.