Defining autism is like defining art – it’s a fluid, broad-spectrum disorder that affects every single patient differently. Our current understanding is limited to simply assessing patient behavior and throwing different antipsychotic drugs at the disorder (though hopefully, CBD for autism will become a thing!); we have yet to identify specific, consistent mechanisms involved. Nonetheless, a simple internet search will bring you to a catch-all definition that reads as follows: Autism spectrum disorder is a complex neurological condition that affects learning, social interaction, communication, anxiety, and many other facets of daily life. Before we dive into the use of CBD for autism, let’s take a look at the current state of treatment.
As mentioned, the bulk of our understanding of autism spectrum disorder involves behavioral symptoms and related maladies. Keep in mind, most often, autism affects young children (boys at quadruple the rate of girls), so treatment often focuses on developing healthy relationships and learning. Behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, relationship development counseling and speech therapy are all commonly found in the autism patient’s treatment regiment.
As it concerns medical issues, autism is often accompanied by anxiety, epilepsy, sleep difficulties and gastrointestinal complications. Additionally, young children with autism can be hypersensitive to stimuli that wouldn’t normally bother everyone else, like music, a small crowd, someone talking, and so on.
So how does cannabidiol help in all of this? If you’ve done any research on CBD for autism or any other disorder already, you may have noticed that ASD sufferers possess many of the issues already treated by cannabidiol.
Using CBD for Autism
So far, a small handful – and we mean a small handful – of studies have been conducted to examine the link between CBD and autism symptoms. The most promising study to date reported that “behavioral outbreaks” were either “much improved or very much improved” in more than 60% of study participants. These participants were reportedly less sensitive to “normal” stimuli, less anxious, and less prone to have outbursts. Though this was not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of convincing the FDA and other regulatory bodies to back CBD-based supplements, it is a hugely promising start.
Possibly the most scientifically justifiable use of CBD for autism is that of the epilepsy manager. Unbeknownst to many, a third of autism spectrum disorder patients suffer from epilepsy as well. To the great delight of the many parents of autistic children who petitioned and petitioned until they couldn’t type any more, the FDA has actually approved one product containing CBD (Epidiolex) for autism, specifically autism-related seizures. The type of epilepsy treated by Epidiolex, however, is rare – there is still plenty of work to do. So, what other symptoms can CBD for autism treat?
Oh, not many:
- Stomach pain/digestion issues
- Sleep difficulties
As it stands currently, there is way too big of a deficit between parents screaming for legalization of CBD-based autism treatments on forums and actual studies that target the effects of CBD for autism. No offense to grassroots advocacy efforts, but we need to take it to the next level if we’re going to sway the historically slow-to-act regulators that approve supplements. Find research initiatives to support, volunteer yourself as a participant, and with help, you can seal a much brighter fate for the next generation of autistic children.