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CBD Oil For Autism– A Compressive Guide

As medical research continues to shed light on the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant, one naturally-occurring compound, has drawn the attention of the public — namely cannabidiol (CBD), a primary cannabinoid present in both hemp and cannabis. This non-psychoactive compound has been shown to treat symptoms of everything from chronic pain issues to anxiety disorders and even epileptic seizures.

Key findings from independent studies have encouraged medical researchers to explore long-term CBD use for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

But what about developmental disorders, such as autism?

In this post, we explore the viability of using CBD oil for autism by taking a closer look at symptoms related to the disorder, as well as CBD’s track record in treating them.

Understanding Autism: Its Related Symptoms & Their Effects on Cognitive Development

Autism is formally known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which refers to complex neurodevelopment disorders that ultimately affect social communication and behavior. Symptoms of ASD affect cognitive skills as well as daily functioning, and usually become apparent by early childhood.

The term “spectrum” refers to the levels of impairment that can occur in individuals with ASD. Some children and adults with the disorder are entirely capable of carrying on everyday aspects of independent living, while others require constant hands-on support even for basic activities.

Since 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has included formerly separate disorders like Asperger syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) as part of ASD, given they fall under the criteria of “an assessment of intellectual disability, social impairment and language difficulties.”

Understanding CBD: Its Therapeutic Potential & Interaction With The Body

As a non-psychoactive compound, pharmaceutical CBD is already approved for use not only in adults, but in children and pets as well.

The key to CBD’s medicinal and therapeutic potential is in its interaction with the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), which is a network of receptors located throughout the body. By binding to these receptors, CBD can effectively control the uptake of vital neurotransmitters — such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine — to and from the brain. This is how CBD can improve the symptoms of a wide variety of disorders including pain, inflammation, anxiety and even mood-related conditions.

Full-Spectrum CBD and The Entourage Effect
It’s worth noting that independent studies have supported countless anecdotal testimonies reporting the benefits of full-spectrum CBD over isolated CBD.

Full-spectrum products have not had secondary cannabinoids and terpenes removed. This allows for the “Entourage Effect” which is believed to increase CBD’s therapeutic potential by interacting with terpenes to produce anti-inflammatory, analgesic or even anxiolytic effects.

How It All Comes Together: The Viability of CBD Oil for Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is more than a developmental impediment affecting social skills and behavior. It comes with a variety of symptoms and disorders produced directly from it. Symptoms are easier to spot and produce a limited degree of impairment.

The most common examples of these include:

  • Abnormal posturing, tone of voice and/or facial expressions
  • Indefinite delay in learning to speak and/or developing language skills
  • Poor language and/or reading comprehension
  • Avoidance of or aversion to eye contact

While the consequences of ASD-related behavioral symptoms are limited to varying degrees of social impairment, behavioral disorders can be much more serious, with the potential to lead to self-harm or inappropriate public behavior.

According to prevalent autism studies, some of the most common accompanying disorders associated with ASD are:

  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression

This is where CBD and its effects on the endogenous cannabinoid system come in. Let’s take a look at how CBD is shown to improve the common ASD-related disorders listed above.

– Autism and epilepsy
Medical research consistently establishes an association between epilepsy and autism; up to 32 percent of individuals with epilepsy also meet the criteria for autism, and roughly 30 percent of children with ASD develop epilepsy before reaching adulthood.

Ongoing clinical trials show that CBD functions as a potent anticonvulsant, whose effects are improved when used in tandem with antiepileptic and anti-spasmodic terpenes as part of full-spectrum CBD products.

– Autism and seizures
Seizures are the most commonly occurring neurologic complication with ASD. Seizures happen because of the abnormal firing of brain nerves and have been categorized into two main types: focal and generalized. Focal seizures involve changes in consciousness, repetitive unusual behaviors such as twitching or blinking, erratic sensory changes and so-called “auras,” or strong feelings of impending seizures. Generalized seizures are classified as either absence, tonic, clonic, atonic and tonic-clonic seizures, each with their own unique behavioral symptoms.

As with epilepsy, CBD’s potent anticonvulsant properties make it viable for preventing or reducing the effects of seizures. In fact, pharmaceutical CBD (ex. Epidiolex) is already commonly prescribed to treat adults and children suffering from seizures, such as in cases of Lennox-Gestaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome.

– Autism and depression
ASD can severely limit an individual’s social prospects, and the resulting isolation often leads to depression accompanied by frustration, wallowing or suicidal thoughts. These only compound the issue, and can lead to self-harm if not treated with therapy and/or medication.

CBD helps treat depression via its positive interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain, making it a natural and superior alternative to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — a class of antidepressant drugs known to produce severe side effects such as vomiting, nausea, and restlessness.

– Autism and anxiety
Anxiety disorders occur quite often in individuals with ASD. The most common types associated with autism are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety and specific phobias such as anthropophobia — also known as fear of people or “the other.”

This is all likely due reduced self-esteem and the autistic individual’s hyperawareness of his or her social impairment.

Studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have shown CBD to lower behavioral symptoms of anxiety in animals. Physiological symptoms associated with anxiety, such as hyperventilation and increased heart rate, were also seen to have been improved by CBD.

– Autism aggression
Individuals with ASD who are already grappling with anxiety disorders or depression may exhibit signs of aggression at times, particularly while they are struggling with a task. According to the American Autism Association, this is completely normal and can be avoided by simply not “overloading” the individual with multiple tasks at once, or distracting him or her from the task at hand.

CBD’s potent anxiolytic and stress-reducing properties can greatly reduce ASD associated depression or anxiety disorders that spiral into episodes of aggression and can be doubly effective if paired with mood-elevating or sedative terpenes (such as linalool) as part of a full-spectrum CBD product.

Which CBD Oil for Austism should you choose?

There are countless brands with wildly varying levels of quality available right now. Knowing who to trust can be a minefield.

We’ve handpicked the following brands, who in our opinion are the most trustworthy and whose products are of the highest quality.

Desperate Parents Of Autistic Children Trying Cannabis Despite Lack Of Studies

Parents of severely autistic children are turning to medical marijuana for relief. After seeing the results that epileptic children experienced, these desperate parents are beginning to wonder if it will work for them too. There are very few studies linking cannabinoids as a treatment for autism, but that isn’t holding these parents back. Most figure they don’t have anything to lose.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder known for its ability to impair communication and social interaction. Some children are able to function well with various treatments, while others suffer with the inability to speak and self-harming behaviors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.5% of the children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism as of 2014, so this is a huge patient population.

They are using CBD or cannabidiol, which can be derived from marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana has higher levels of THC than hemp, which causes the “high” effect, while CBD contains the medical properties. Hemp has more CBD than marijuana, but less of the medicinal compound within CBD to have an effect. Marijuana plants can be bred to have higher levels of CBD and then those flowers are used to create CBD oil. It can also be extracted from hemp plants, which contains a large amount of CBD, but with less strength of the medicinal cannabidiol compound, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 22: Liza Smith (L) of White Stone, Virginia, comforts her14-year-old Haley . [+] Smith (2nd L) who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, as she listens during a news conference at the National Press Club April 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) discussed during the news conference his proposed Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act to legalize therapeutic hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) by excluding them from the Controlled Substance Act. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The stories of autistic children that are helped with CBD oil sound very familiar to the stories of the epileptic children that have responded to CBD. A Brown University teacher Marie Myung-Ok Lee , author of Somebody’s Daughter, documented her autistic son’s response to using Marinol, a synthetic cannabis which is produced by the drug company AbbVie. She switched to an edible form of cannabis and then a tea version. Her son went from self-harming behavior like banging his head to being able to ride a bike. She calls her experiment a qualified success.

Another mother, Mieko Hester-Perez founded The Unconventional Foundation for Autism when she discovered that medical marijuana helped her autistic son. The story is similar to the famous Charlotte’s Web cannabis strain, so named after the little girl named Charlotte who’s epileptic seizures were dramatically reduced after using this particular breed of cannabis. The story became famous on a ’60 Minutes’ program. This version is called Joey’s Strain and it was created by Kushman Genetics for Ms. Perez’ son Joey. The website cites a Dr. Rimland and his editorial piece, ‘Is Marijuana a Valuable Treatment For Autism.’ However, this article contains no references to any studies and is only a collection of anecdotal stories.

More recently, Kalel Santiago, a child with autism so severe he wasn’t able to speak, started speaking his first words after simply spraying hemp oil in his mouth twice daily according to Dr. Giovanni Martinez, a clinical psychologist in Puerto Rico. Dr. Martinez said, “He started using the product three weeks ago. He was a full non-verbal patient. He only made sounds. The only change in his treatments was the use of CBD.” The parents pursued the treatment on their own. Dr. Martinez has also been doing his own research on CBD and shared it with the parents. “I’m very impressed with the language he has acquired,” said Dr. Martinez. Dr. Martinez noted that when Kalel couldn’t communicate, his behavior became bad as he acted out due to his frustrations, but by opening up his communication abilities his conduct has improved. “He laughs every time he hears his voice,” said Dr, Martinez.

Hemp Health is a company that imports CBD oil from outside the country and sells it through the mail. Since, it is derived form hemp and not marijuana no prescription is needed. It was their CBD spray that the Santiago’s used for Kalel. Katerina Maloney, a co-founder of HempHealth said, “We have a lot of epileptic patients calling us. Patients with cancer and pain. There are lots of different conditions.” Maloney does believe more research needs to be done, but she has numerous testimonials from customers that believe in their products. The company now has sales of $150,000 a month.

The issue is that few doctors will recommend this is as a treatment because there is little scientific research to base it on. Unlike epilepsy, where references to cannabis treatments dated as far back as 1843 when Dr. William O’Shaughnessy wrote, “In Cannabis, the medical profession has gained an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value.’ There is little research on autism and cannabis. Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, John R. Knight, MD and Sion Kim Harris , PhD of Boston Children’s Hospital write, “Given the current scarcity of data, cannabis cannot be safely recommended for the treatment of developmental or behavioral disorders at this time.”

A 2013 study by Dr. Siniscalco found signs to suggest compounds found in cannabis could help to treat autism, writing, “Our data indicate CB2 receptor as potential therapeutic target for the pharmacological management of the autism care.” Another study published in 2013 and dating back to 2011 by Dr. Csaba Foldy at the Second University of Naples associated with Stanford University Medical School is often cited. In the study out of Stanford University first author Dr. Foldy wrote, “Endocannabinoids are molecules that are critical regulators of normal neuron activity and are important for many brain function. By conducting studies in mice, we found that neuroliginb-3, a protein that is mutated in some individuals with autism, is important for relaying endocannabinoid signals that tone down communication between neurons.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Josh Schimmer who covers bio-tech companies has also made the connection. He noted that some forms of autism share similar features with epilepsy. He writes, “It’s possible that some children have sub-clinical seizure activity that result in developmental disorders, and there are also extremely exciting anecdotes of autism patients who thrive after CBD therapy.”

The Autism Research Institute starting connecting the dots too. They found that children with autism that used marijuana experienced an improvement in symptoms like anxiety, aggression, panic disorder, tantrums and self-injurious behavior. Martin Lee, author of Smoke Signals and founder of Project CBD said, “There’s substantive body of pre-clinical research and some anecdotal stories. There’s also some research from GW Pharmaceuticals on psychiatric disorders. It’s not autism, but there are overlapping issues.”

GW Pharmaceutical spokesman Mark Rogerson said, “I’m afraid we have no current research going on in this area. We are aware of the interest in cannabinoid medicines and autism and our plans may change in the future. But for the time being we have a very full clinical trials programme. We are only a small company in pharmaceuticals terms and regretfully, we have to make choices among therapeutic areas.”

The lack of research isn’t holding back the grassroots efforts. There are numerous pages on Facebook that have created autism and cannabis communities. There are several websites devoted to the idea. There are doctors that are writing about the stories they have heard. The one thing lacking is multiple scientific studies. But if drug companies like GW Pharmaceuticals believes it can tap into this large patient population, the studies will get funded and patients will be happy to sign up.