Wellness with Weed: Cannabis for Autism
This week’s Wellness with Weed blog focuses on the possibility of using cannabis for treating autism. Before delving into research and treatment with cannabis for autism, we at Herbaceous Inc. acknowledge that autism is a vast spectrum which presents and manifests differently in each individual. “Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” says Amy Taylor, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at FDA. Comorbidities such as epilepsy, anxiety, sleep challenges, ADHD, GI issues, just to name a few, may impact the way in which you and your family or team consider using cannabis for treating autism. The United States still has a tremendous amount of work and research to do in this field, but there are a few great projects going on out there. I look forward to sharing more research in the future. Meanwhile, I encourage you to ignore anyone shaming parents for considering CBD for their child. In addition, as I discovered firsthand from my local Senator’s response to this subject, our country is still full of inaccurate, outdated information that seems to stem from the days of Reefer Madness hysteria. Please proceed through the veil of misinformation. Just beyond, you’ll find some extraordinary discoveries.
In my previous work as a neurologic music therapist specializing in children diagnosed on the autism spectrum in Oregon, I was able to witness the impact of cannabis with autism first-hand. Many parents around the world have shared videos and stories describing the positive results of using cannabis for autism, frequently accompanied by epilepsy. One of the most well known is the story of Charlotte Figi. The story of Sam is another example of cannabis with autism that was accompanied by “aggressive, destructive, unsafe and antisocial behaviors.” Here’s a snippet of his story.
Sam had been having another horrible day before the dose. After 30 minutes we could see the MC [medical cannabis] was beginning to have an effect. Sam’s eyes got a little red and got a bit droopy. His behavior became relaxed and far less anxious than he had been at the time we gave him the MC. He started laughing for the first time in weeks. My wife and I were astonished with the effect. It was as if all the anxiety, rage and hostility that had been haunting him melted away. That afternoon and evening his behavior was steady and calm. He started talking to us and interacting with us again. Sam’s was physically more relaxed and began initiating physical contact with the motivation being affection instead of aggression. It was amazing! He went to sleep that night with no problem and slept through the night.
Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence won’t win FDA approval. BUT, at the very least, it draws attention to a subject that is really important! What if cannabis help could help someone stop seizing and start speaking for the first time in years? What if this was a legal alternative to FDA approved drugs like risperidone or aripiprazole with their long list of potential side effects?
Only two medications have been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of autism. Both are antipsychotic drugs which are not always effective and come with serious side effects. One mom describes the side effects on her daughter leaving her…”like a zombie…with her mouth wide open, not moving.”
Adi Aran is a pediatric neurologist leading a study that began in January 2017 at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. It involves 120 children and young adults, ages 5 to 29, who have mild to severe autism, and it will last through the end of 2018.
More than 110 cannabis clinical trials are underway in Israel — more than any other country, according to Michael Dor, senior medical adviser at the Health Ministry’s medical cannabis unit.
In the US, “states are moving ahead on this issue without the federal government. Recently, Minnesota became the latest state to add autism spectrum disorder to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. And the state isn’t alone. Georgia places autism as a qualifying condition across the spectrum with no age requirements, and the same goes for Pennsylvania. In Oregon and Washington, D.C., autism falls under other approved conditions, giving physicians the right to prescribe cannabis as they see fit.
Still, it’s not enough, particularly since medical cannabis to treat autism is available in so few states. That means many parents face the choice between doing something illegal to potentially help their child, or letting them continue to suffer without hope. For Mark Zartler, there wasn’t a choice.”
How Cannabis and CBD Offer Hope in Future Treatments of Autism was recently published by Dr. Josh Kaplan. This article reminds us of the small amount of research being done at this time but expresses optimism in what Dr. Kaplan has discovered thus far.
“These results reveal CBD’s potential to reduce autism-like impairments in social interaction and social anxiety that are caused by impaired inhibitory signaling in the brain.”
There are support groups like mamma and pediatric cannabis support online that may help guide new parents. Even in states lacking a medical marijuana program, CBD is becoming more accessible through online purchase. We encourage you to reach out and explore possible alternatives to the traditional treatments for autism. Please take heed of origin and strive for products that come from trusted sources and be open to the possibilities of cannabis.