Autism is on the rise. From 0,7% of children in the USA in 2000 to staggering 2,5% in 2016 according to the study. The difference is definitely noticeable – but is this only the consequence of changes in diagnostic practice? We can’t confirm nor deny this.
Because there are few treatments available for autism spectrum disorder, we are going to focus on CBD oil for autism. Three of the main questions that need (and will be) answered are “Can CBD oil help with autism?”, “How does CBD help with autism?” and “Is CBD oil a safe treatment for kids with autism?”. Read more and you’ll find out everything a parent needs to know when deciding to treat autism with CBD oil.
What is Autism?
Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that is best described or should we say characterized by difficulties in communication and socializing. Repetitive and restricted behaviour are also commonly displayed, and some children also display superior skills in perception and attention.
What causes Autism?
There have been some suspicions and predictions about what may cause autism, but nothing can be said with certainty. Some indications point to genetic and environmental factors, as siblings of those with autism are 25 times more likely to be autistic too – in comparison to the general population.
Some plausible causes of autism (during pregnancy) are:
- Nutrition and inflammation
- Autoimmune diseases
- Exposure to air pollution and heavy metals
- Infectious diseases
- Drug abuse
Because children spend more and more time behind computers and television, some parents are even asking themselves if too much TV can cause autism? According to a study made in 2006, there is a chance that TV can actually be the cause of autism. Even though that further research is probably needed, there are some indications that can confirm this.
Because autism usually shows between ages 2 and 4, parents carry most of the responsibility for how long the child is exposed to TV.
- Inability to understand the social communication
- Less attention to social stimuli
- Less or no response when they are called by name
- Less eye contact
- Looking and smiling at others is less often
- Not able to use simple movements to express themselves, such as pointing at things
- Less likely to imitate and respond to emotions
- Spontaneous approach to others almost never happens
- Hard to make and maintain friendship
- Aggression and violence
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Babbling and gesturing instead of speaking
- Repeating others’ words
- Repetitive movements (body rocking, head rolling, hand flapping,…)
- Resistance to change
- Ritualistic behavior
- Restricted interests (preoccupation with a single “thing”)
How many types of autism do we know?
Well, actually there are 4 different types of autism spectrum disorders:
- Asperger’s syndrome: Not so “intensive” type of autism disorder. Usually people with Asperger’s are able to cope with their daily routines, are quite intelligent and abnormally focused on a particular topic – but socializing could be very difficult for a person with Asperger’s.
- Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified – atypical autism: In this group are usually children whose autism is more severe than Aspergers but still less than autistic disorder.
- Autistic disorder: Same, but more severe and intense symptoms as Asperger’s and atypical autism.
- Childhood disintegrative disorder: Usually occurs with children that develop completely normally, but (usually) between ages 2 and 4, they quickly lose many mental, social and communication (language) skills. It is the most severe type of autism and luckily also the rarest. Common “side effect” of childhood disintegrative disorder is also a seizure disorder.
There is also a disorder called Rett syndrome that has similar symptoms as autism disorders, but doesn’t fall into the same group because it is said to be caused by a genetic mutation.
Do vaccines cause autism?
There isn’t anything to debate. Vaccines don’t cause autism. The majority of scientists and medical experts say that there is no connection between vaccines and autism and even other neurodevelopmental disorders. In fact, vaccination against rubella can prevent the cause of autism (because having rubella during pregnancy can be the cause for autism).
Treatment options for autism disorders
There is no viable treatment for autism that has been scientifically confirmed. The “best we can do” is to try and manage and possibly even lessen the symptoms of autism disorders.
There is also no “best treatment method” for autistic children, so the treatment regime is usually specifically tailored to every child’s needs. Usually licenced psychologists, special education teachers and speech pathologists are the ones who prepare a suggested treatment regime. It can be beneficial to include children into special education programs, so it can help them develop communication, self-care and everyday skills that are needed in life.
We can say that any form of treatment is definitely better than no treatment at all.
Should I use conventional medication?
Some types of medications are used to ease the symptoms of autism in cases when behavioural treatment doesn’t show any progress. The autistic children are most commonly prescribed with psychoactive drugs and anticonvulsants that fall into the groups of antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics.
As we all know, many of the conventional medications can cause severe side effects in adults, let alone with children. If we also look at the statement that no known medication actually relieves the core symptoms of autism disorders – does the benefit outweigh the risk?
Can CBD oil help with autism?
According to lots of anecdotal evidence and even studies, CBD oil can be used as a treatment for autism. But before we jump to conclusions, we need to know a few more things.
What is CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical compound called cannabinoid that is found in the majority of Cannabis Sativa L. varieties and strains. Besides THC, CBD is the most researched cannabinoid with amazing therapeutic potential that has been confirmed by the scientists. Unlike THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive, so it doesn’t cause the infamous “high”.
Even though that CBD on its own offers us numerous benefits, it is still highly recommended to use whole plant extract, otherwise known as full spectrum. Why do you ask? All the compounds that are extracted from hemp or cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids,…) best work in synergy and support body homeostasis – that is called the entourage effect.
Of course we have to be careful that we don’t expose our children to high levels of THC because that can affect their brain development, but small amounts (less than 0,2 or 0,3%) are usually more than welcome.
How does CBD work and how does it help?
CBD affects our endocannabinoid system that is responsible for regulating numerous body functions, that include disorders that are usually associated with autism: anxiety, sleepiness, stress and even epilepsy and seizures.
- Epilepsy & seizures: Although not every child who suffers from autism has epilepsy and/or seizures, it can help prevent them, enabling children to be more self-confident in terms of social interactions and stress.
- Anxiety: One of the most common disorders effectively treated with CBD oil. Lowering or even better, getting rid of anxiety can make it a lot easier for autistic children to learn communication skills and use them when socializing.
- Sleepiness: While regular and quality sleep means a lot to every individual, it is also important for those suffering from autism as it can help reduce aggressive behaviours.
- Stress: It can lead to aggression, not only with Autists, but with every individual. That’s where CBD proved to be really effective – it calms us down (that’s why it also helps with better and quality sleep), reducing stress, nervousness and consequently even aggression – often most difficult autism behaviour to ease/manage.
CBD and autism: what do the studies say?
There are some studies about how CBD can help with autism, all showing quite promising results. One of the most recent studies where “the father of CBD” Raphael Mechoulam also participated, tried to characterize the epidemiology of autism patients that are receiving CBD oils (or medical cannabis).
Here is the short summary of the before mentioned study:
- CBD oil containing 30% CBD and 1,5% THC was used.
- The study lasted 6 months.
- Out of 155 patients, 93 were assessed.
- 30,1% reported significant improvement.
- 53,7% reported moderate improvement.
- 6,4% reported slight improvement.
- 8,6% reported no change in their condition.
- 25,2% experienced at least one side effect, the most common being restlessness (6,6%)
In conclusion, CBD and cannabis in general is well tolerated and is believed to be a safe and effective treatment for autists to relieve symptoms that are associated with autism spectrum disorders.
How much CBD does an autistic child need?
There is no right answer to this question as every individual is unique and so are the doses. One study suggests that recommended daily dose of CBD is 16mg per kg of bodyweight and no more than 600mg of CBD should be consumed on a daily basis.
Because every individual is unique, we highly recommend to start with a low dose (2-3 times a day) that you gradually increase every week or so, until you find the optimal dose for your child. Finding the optimal dose of CBD is especially vital when it comes to epilepsy and seizures because higher than optimal dose could have no effect at all.
The first recommendation is as always – try to find a quality CBD oil from a reputable vendor. Also try to look for full spectrum products that are high in CBD and low in THC, as they are in most cases much more effective that CBD isolate oils.
Inform yourself if CBD products are legal in your country.
Consult with your pediatrician or doctor.
Be persistent – it can take up to 5 weeks for the endocannabinoid system to balance itself before it starts “working” as it should.
Overall, CBD oil as a treatment for autism is believed to be a safe and efficient method. With studies confirming lots of anecdotal evidence, it is only a question of time when CBD oil will be available as a viable treatment for autism.
Author: L. O.