Can Cannabis Help Kids With Autism?

cannabis for autism

Parents of children with Autism are continually looking for ways to help in their children’s development and alleviate their symptoms. There are many studies on the subject, and the latest in them is how cannabis can help to relieve autism symptoms.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had established that 1 out of 59 children is diagnosed with ASD. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ASD, with 1 out of 37 boys having diagnosed with the disorder. Children can be diagnosed as early as two years old; some can be diagnosed after the age of four. It is a disorder that spans all races and socioeconomic statuses. There is no medical detection for ASD, but early intervention can be beneficial for the child.

On average, autism can cost a family $60,000 yearly during childhood. This cost includes special services and lost wages due to the increased demands of both parents. Mothers of children diagnosed with ASD are less likely to work, hence lesser income for the family. The child’s mother acts as his advocate and looks after the child’s welfare and development.

It is one of the drivers why many parents of children with ASD are willing to look for other alternative treatments. One of these alternatives is the use of cannabis.

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that covers a wide range of symptoms. It is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for this very reason. Autism can affect the whole body. Symptoms may include but not limited to the following:

  • Poor or impaired social interaction
  • Repetitive and rigid patterns of behavior
  • Language developmental delay
  • Poor or impaired communication skills
  • Sensorial hypersensitivity (sound, touch, smell, or sight)
  • Seizures

Autism symptoms usually appear in the first three years of life. The symptoms are so wide and varied that ASD can range from a limiting handicap to a disability that requires medical care.

There is no established cause for autism, but research found that genetics play a significant role in most cases. Besides, children born to older parents are more at risk of having the disorder.

What is CBD?

CBD, which is also known as cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in cannabis. This natural substance is used in oils and edibles. CBD strains are usually used for relaxation, and even for medicinal purposes to help with pain and anxiety. It is for patients who have sleeping problems to help with falling and staying asleep. CBD is not psychoactive and will not get its users high. It is the other portion of the cannabis plant, namely THC that gives off euphoric effects.

Some states have legalized CBD in the US. However, the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana. Ten states have legalized recreational use of cannabis, while 23 have legalized it for medical purposes.

Is CBD safe for children with ASD?

CBD has been shown to relieve its users of anxiety, so researchers started to study if it can relieve ASD symptoms. CBD is proven effective in treating devastating childhood epilepsy syndromes, including the Dravet syndrome and the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These epilepsy syndromes do not respond well to anti-seizure medications. However, studies have shown that CBD is safe with LGS patients and can sustainably reduce episodes of seizures.

A study on the effects of CBD on children with ASD has shown that the use of CBD helped improve comorbid autism symptoms. These symptoms include aggression, anxiety, restlessness, sleep disorders, and hyperactivity. CBD was administered to 53 patients, with age ranging from 4 to 25 years old. Overall, 74.5% reported having improved on the aforementioned comorbid symptoms. The long term effects, however, are still left for further research and studies.

Benefits of CBD

CBD has many known health benefits. That is why many are pushing for its legalization. However, more human studies are still needed to establish some of these benefits.

Based on clinical studies, CBD can help reduce anxiety with people who suffer from behavioral disorders. These include post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and substance abuse disorder.

  • It can help alleviate the suffering of people with chronic pain.

Clinical studies have found that CBD can help suppress inflammatory pain. It was also found to be effective in alleviating nerve pain, including patients with terminal cancer.

Patients have used CBD to relieve symptoms of nausea, pain, and appetite.

It helps children who suffer from Dravet syndrome seizures and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome seizures.

In 2018, Epidioex was approved as a treatment for these rare genetic disorders. It is the first FDA approved CBD for Dravet and LGS seizure relief.

Studies show CBD can help alleviate hypertension, thereby reducing risks of heart disease. It suggests that CBD can be used as therapy for people with hypertension, induced by stress and anxiety.

Aside from these health benefits, CBD can also help children who have autism spectrum disorder. In the study mentioned above, CBD can help alleviate symptoms of seizures, restlessness, and aggressive episodes.

Another benefit of CBD being looked at is that it can improve the quality of life of an ASD patient. It can also help improve the mood and the ASD child’s ability to perform his everyday tasks.

The Future of Autism and Cannabis

The use of CBD as an accepted alternative treatment and symptom relief for ASD still has a long way to go. Researchers suggest that more studies must be done to be able to better understand the effects of CBD on ASD patients. The number of children diagnosed with ASD is steadily rising. Children with ASD also deserve a chance for a better future. It will be in the best interest of families and children alike if more treatment is available for symptom relief.

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About Nicco Reggente, PhD 167 Articles
Nicco is the co-founder and CEO of WoahStork and Strain Genie-- two companies dedicated to bringing to life his passion of bringing personalized medicine to the cannabis industry. Nicco received his PhD from UCLA in cognitive neuroscience with a focus on machine learning applied to neuroimaging datasets. He previously received two B.As from NYU in Psychology and Philosophy.

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