Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that appears within the first 3 years of life. ASD most commonly affects communication and social skills. The cause of the disorder is not known but is linked to abnormal brain chemistry. Research into the source of ASD is very active though medications have only been developed to deal with the behavioral consequences of the disorder, not the disorder itself. While the research on Autism and cannabis is limited, it’s very promising.
Males are 3-4 time more likely to have autism. Recently diagnosis of autism has increased, but scientists suggest this is likely due to new definitions that include a wider range of disorders including Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and Child disintegrative disorder where a child looses all learned skills by the age of 10. [pub med]
Diagnosis often occurs in the first 18th months of life when parents notice their child having difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication as well as with social interactions. No reaction to startling noises, aversion to physical touch, fixation, repetition, and an inability to play imaginatively are other signs that a child may have ASD.
Autism has varying degrees of severity, but the understandable frustration and isolation people with autism experience often results in intense tantrums that may become violent be it self-inflicted or directed at others. Those with autism are considered ‘moody’ and disruptions in routine or environment often trigger wide mood swings.
With small children such tantrums are more manageable, but become a much bigger issue as children grow into adults without normal social or communication skills. Pharmaceuticals are often prescribed to ameliorate the aggression, anxiety, compulsions, and attention problems associated with ASD, but there is considerable anecdotal evidence indicating that cannabis is very effective in providing the same benefit without the risky side effects of pharmaceuticals.
In 2000 researchers at the University of California at Irvine discovered that the way marijuana interacts with the brain could be used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, schizophrenia, and autism.
Cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (literally inner-cannabinoid) and act not only to regulate emotion and focus but also serve as a neuroprotective preventing the further degradation of brain cells.
Tempering an autistic person’s mood consistently is achieved with an oral dose of cannabis that can be adjusted according to need. Unlike pharmaceutical alternatives, cannabis has no lethal dose making it safe for self-medicating and easing the worries of caretakers.
Here is a quote from one father’s experience with using cannabis the first time for an autistic child.
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.
With such stories it is clear that cannabis has great potential as a tool in the treatment of autism, but until the federal government allows research, anecdotal evidence is the only evidence that we will have.
If you or someone you know has used cannabis in the treatment of autism, leave a comment and tell about your experiences so that others may benefit from your knowledge.