Alternative Medicine As a Treatment for Autism

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marijuana and autism

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018 it was determined that approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Most children are diagnosed with ASD after the age of four, but it can be diagnosed as early as two years old.

Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and there is no cure. The social and sensory differences in autistic people cause lifelong problems, but there are ways to learn how to cope with the symptoms and there are some treatments. A new and  promising one is CBD oil.

marijuana and autism

What Causes Autism?

In the vast majority of cases, genetics are the primary factor in a child developing autism. Older parents have a higher chance of giving birth to a child with ASD. Contrary to some beliefs, vaccinations do not cause autism.

Common Treatments for Autism

Children with autism often have other behavioral and health issues. For example, nearly 1/3 of children with autism also have epilepsy. They also display symptoms such as hyper-activity, self-injury, aggressiveness, restlessness, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Conventional medical treatments include anticonvulsants, anti-psychotics, SSRIs, stimulants, and anxiolytics.

Other common treatments include behavioral therapy and applied behavioral analysis. Children with autism also benefit from speech and occupational therapy.

What About CBD Oil as a Treatment?

In 2018, the advocacy group Autism Speaks hosted the first scientific conference on cannabis and autism. The two-day meeting, which took place in New York City, brought together more than 30 leading researchers, government regulators and members of the autism community. Most of the discussion was centered on the need for clinical and observational studies. They also addressed the need for standardized testing and the need for more accurate labeling of cannabis products.

Because cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance according to the federal government, clinical studies in the United States remain difficult. However, there have been clinical studies on using CBD oil as a treatment for autism in other countries.

A study done in Israel followed 53 children between the ages of 4 to 22. The patients received cannabidiol (CBD) drops under the tongue for a median duration of 66 days. In 67.6% of the cases, instances of self-injury and rage attacks were reduced, compared to 8.8% of cases, where incidents worsened. Hyperactivity symptoms improved in 68.4% of cases. 71.4% of participants saw an improvement in sleep problems. Anxiety was also improved in 47.1% of patients.

Another Israeli study, which will be published in the journal Neurology, researchers used a high-CBD cannabis oil that contained 20% CBD and 1% THC. 60 children were treated over 7 months with the oil. After the treatment period, the parents of the patients answered questions regarding their child’s behavioral changes, anxiety levels, and ability to communicate.

80% of the parents reported an improvement in problematic behaviors, with 62% reporting that there had been a significant improvement. Half of the children involved in the study saw improvements in the ability to communicate.

Dr. Adi Aran, who is the director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, was inspired to treat children with autism after the promising results of CBD in epileptic patients. Since 1/3 of autistic children also have epilepsy, research indicates that cannabis will also help patients with autism as well.

New York University neurologist Dr. Orrin Devinsky is conducting two studies on the effects of CBD on children aged 5 to 18 with moderate to severe autism. He, along with Dr. Aran, are the only two currently conducting studies on CBD treatments for autism.

Aside from clinical trials, there has been anecdotal evidence on treating autism with CBD oil. A recent report published in Remedy Review found that of 547 parents of children with ASD, just over 40% had tried CBD. The parents who tried CBD treatments claimed that it helped their kids with the major symptoms associated with ASD.

Parents of children with ASD should discuss the possibility of CBD treatment with all of their children’s doctors. They should also obtain their CBD from a reputable source, such as a dispensary. While a vape pen or portable vaporizer might be an option for older teens and adults with autism, children usually respond better to sublingual tinctures or CBD-infused gummy candies.