CBD Oil for Asperger’s: What We Know
Navigating through life involves learning various new skills, including how to make friends and talk to people—for most people, at least. For some people, however, social interactions and communicating with other people feels foreign and is overwhelming. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty expressing emotions, and speaking to other people is not as easy as it is for the general population.
We don’t fully understand all the causes of Asperger’s Syndrome, so finding effective treatments for this condition is a challenge. The use of CBD has become a topic of interest for numerous other conditions such as pain, anxiety, and other brain conditions.
There have been mixed anecdotal reports on the usefulness of using CBD oil for Asperger’s symptoms and helping manage them. Research on this topic is just beginning. Let’s see what we know so far.
Table of Contents
- CBD Oil for Asperger’s: Just the Facts
- Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome
- Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome
- Social Skills
- The Endocannabinoid System
- Oxytocin and Autism
CBD Oil for Asperger’s: Just the Facts
Asperger’s Syndrome is considered a high functioning form of autism, which primarily causes issues with social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and emotional processing. There are no specific medical treatments for Asperger’s symptoms; however, many people with the condition require treatment for anxiety and depression. Research on using CBD oil for Asperger’s is just beginning and requires clinical trials.
There is, however, some evidence that CBD may have a place in helping people manage their Asperger’s symptoms in the future.
Understanding Asperger’s Syndrome
Asperger’s syndrome is a term used to describe a type of neurological developmental disorder and, as such, should not be thought of as a “disease.”
The condition is characterized by certain behaviors and personality traits that influence how a person sees, feels, and processes the world around them.
At one point in time, the medical community classified Asperger’s as a specific diagnosis. However, it is now considered part of the autism spectrum disorder. Many people still refer to the condition as Asperger’s, while others refer to it simply as high-functioning autism.
Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome
Typically, parents begin to notice signs and symptoms of Asperger’s in early childhood. One of the first symptoms parents usually notice is a lack of eye contact in infancy. In addition, many people with Asperger’s demonstrate a significant dislike of change and a great need for routine. They often exhibit repetitive behaviors such as eating meals at the same time every day or completing chores in a specific order. It is also common for them to take intense interest in specific topics, for example, insects or outer space, and spend a lot of time learning about and talking about their area of interest.
Parents may also begin to notice that their child does not show emotions as they would expect—they may not laugh at jokes, or they may not show sympathy at appropriate times.
Unlike more severe forms of autism, which may result in a decrease of daily functioning, intelligence, and ability to learn at school or work a normal job, people with Asperger’s do not have any deficits in intelligence or have the same autism symptoms. However, they tend to have some specific personality traits and behaviors that are characteristic of the syndrome. Often, people with Asperger’s main issue is in picking up on social cues and developing social skills.
One person who has Asperger’s describes their experience:
“Imagine if you will, that everyone is playing a board game. It’s a really fascinating game and it seems quite complex. The board is intricately decorated and the playing pieces are beautifully carved and everyone really seems to enjoy playing it. The strange thing is though, that you’ve never seen anyone pick up a rulebook for the game. Everyone just seems to know all the rules.
When you ask someone if they can teach you the rules, they look confused and say ‘Weren’t you born knowing how to play?’
This is how social interaction feels to us. We weren’t born with an innate social ability like most people, so we have had to learn the hard way.”
The Impact of Having Asperger’s
People with Asperger’s tend to know that they are different, and they’re often called “weird” by others. Being judged by others can affect their self-esteem and result in anxiety and depression, both of which can decrease their quality of life.
They often report feeling overwhelmed by their environments, which feel “overstimulating.”
Causes of Asperger’s Syndrome
The cause of Asperger’s is unknown. It is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Conventional Treatment Approaches for Asperger’s
Treating the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome can be challenging, as there are no prescription medications specifically for this condition. Therefore, treatment usually involves therapy and coaching to help a person with his or her social skills, anxiety, or depression.
In some cases, antidepressants (such as SSRIs like Prozac) are recommended to people on the autism spectrum who suffer from anxiety and depression.
In short, there are currently no medications that are an effective treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome itself. This condition is still poorly understood, so new therapies depend on gaining a better understanding of what areas of brain development are affected.
Researchers are beginning to look at the possibilities of using CBD oil for Asperger’s, given its emerging role in other mental health and neurological conditions such as anxiety, seizures, and schizophrenia.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil, sometimes called hemp oil, comes from the industrial hemp plant, and it contains high amounts of cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid that has been proven to have positive effects on many medical conditions for some people. Although this plant is a sister to the marijuana plant, it does not contain high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis.
CBD products have few side effects, which are typically mild and include fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea for some people.
CBD products are legal to buy and sell throughout the United States. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products at this time. Therefore, it is of vital importance that you make purchases from reputable companies that use third-party testing, so you know precisely what you are buying. Utilize a good resource to help you find the right CBD products for your needs, and which are high quality and safe to use.
CBD Oil for Asperger’s: What We Know So Far
There have not yet been any randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials conducted on the possibilities of using CBD oil for autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. However, there is some evidence that CBD oil may have a place in helping some people manage Asperger’s symptoms.
As scientists take a closer look into the brains of animal models and people on the autism spectrum, they have reported that there are some differences from the general population.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system has been an area of interest in several medical conditions. This system exists throughout our brains and bodies as a network of receptors. These are cannabinoid receptors, which are stimulated by CBD. They control pain levels and inflammation, and they affect mood.
Researchers have suggested that people on the autism spectrum have an endocannabinoid deficiency, which is responsible, in part, for their anxiety levels and neurological impairments. It is possible that CBD, which activates this system, could help alleviate some of their symptoms.
An article from the Journal of Neurotherapeutics reports that research studies in both animals and humans support CBD oil as an effective therapy for reducing anxiety levels. Anxiety is a widespread symptom experienced by people with Asperger’s. This is due to feeling overstimulated by their environments as well as struggling in social situations.
Oxytocin and Autism
They’ve also discovered that children on the autism spectrum have lower levels of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for the emotional bonding between infants and mothers. CBD oil has been shown in animal models to increase the levels of oxytocin in the brain. Although this process requires more research, as does CBD in general, it is encouraging further study on the possible use of CBD oil for Asperger’s.
A Summary of What the Research Says
There have not been any randomized, controlled clinical trials on CBD for Asperger’s.
Researchers have found differences in the brains of people with autism, including an endocannabinoid deficiency and lower levels of oxytocin. CBD oil stimulates both of these.
CBD has been shown to help with anxiety, a symptom people with Asperger’s commonly experience.
Final Thoughts on the Use of CBD Oil for Asperger’s
There are still significant gaps in our understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome as well as the best approach to manage its symptoms. Based on early research on CBD oil, CBD products may have a place in the management of autism spectrum disorders; however, more research through clinical trials is needed.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 2% of the adult population in the United States. If you struggle socially, behaviorally, or academically because of autism, help is within reach at Texas THC Doctor in Seguin, Texas. Zulfiqar Shah, MD, and his experienced team offer medical marijuana prescriptions to reduce any undesirable effects of autism. Schedule a telehealth appointment over the phone or online with Texas THC Doctor to learn more.
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Autism Q & A
What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder or autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates and socializes with other people. Its symptoms vary in severity and are often observable in early childhood. While there’s no cure, treatment can help people with the condition thrive in their environment.
What are the symptoms of autism?
Some of the many symptoms you might notice with autism include:
- Individuals who resist hugging
- A preference to be alone
- Poor eye contact
- Lack of facial expressions
- Difficulty with conversations
- Speaking with a robot-like voice
- Repeating words or phrases
- Inappropriate or awkward social interactions
- Rocking or other repetitive movements
- Preferring specific routines
- Sensitivity to sound, touch, or light
- Specific food preferences
See the Texas THC Doctor team to discuss how medical marijuana can help reduce the severity of autism symptoms.
What are the different types of autism spectrum disorder?
Autism can range in severity from mild to moderate or severe. Common types of autism include:
Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of autism. Someone with this condition can effectively handle normal everyday tasks but may focus on specific topics and talk about them nonstop. They may also have a difficult time in social situations.
Pervasive developmental disorder
With pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), individuals may experience more severe symptoms than Asperger’s syndrome, but they’re often not as concerning as the symptoms of other types of autism.
With autism disorder, you might notice the same symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder, but they’re often more intense.
How can medical cannabis help with autism?
Cannabis-derived medications can reduce certain symptoms or conditions often linked to autism. For example, liquid cannabis may help reduce seizures in people with certain types of autism.
Cannabis might reduce the following in people with autism:
- Repetitive behaviors
Texas THC Doctor is part of the Texas Compassionate Use Program for medical marijuana. The highly trained team is registered through the Texas Compassionate Use Registry, allowing clinicians to legally prescribe medical cannabis and CBD to adult patients with autism who qualify.
To learn more about the beneficial effects of medical cannabis on autism, complete the intake form online to see if you qualify for medical marijuana. You can then schedule a telehealth appointment online or over the phone with Texas THC Doctor.
Cannabinoids and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Born in Barcelona, 17 February 1956. Graduated in medicine and surgery from the University of Barcelona in 1979. For 38 years has worked as an emergency physician in the area of occupational medicine. He became interested in cannabis by chance, and for the last 15 years has studied its therapeutic uses. He currently works at Kalapa Clinic, where he advises on treatments with cannabinoids, performs clinical work with patients and collaborates with different organisations and associations such as Catfac. He is a member of the Spanish Observatory for Medicinal Cannabis. He is a regular member of IACM.
Autism can be described as a disorder of neurodevelopment, causing alterations in social interaction and with the subject’s surroundings. It also causes problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, and sometimes very restricted and usually repetitive behaviour.
Parents usually start to become aware of these features during the first two years of life. However, this may depend on the degree of autism, which can vary from very mild in some cases to extreme in others.
This variability —as well as other features discussed below— has led to the development of the concept of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This category encompasses three types of disorder with separate and distinguishable characteristics, namely autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified). Diagnosis can sometimes prove very difficult and be complicated by the degree of autism and a correlation with other pathologies, such as refractory epilepsy.
Autism per se (autistic disorder) involves retardation in cognitive development; this is not the case, however, with Asperger’s syndrome, where numerous cases have been reported of patients with above-average cognitive performance; some individuals are even exceptionally gifted at performing certain mental tasks.
The causes of this disorder are not known with any certainty. Although there are different theories, we do know that there is a proven genetic predisposition. ASD has been related to the so-called fragile X syndrome. However, it is not known whether other chromosomal changes might also be causes or contributors.
Other causes that have been reported include the MMR vaccine, use of paracetamol, food and environmental factors and celiac disease.
Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, tryptophan and oxytocin might also be involved.
We know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in regulating the processes that are altered in these disorders. One might therefore consider that phytocannabinoids (plant-extracted cannabinoids) might help treat the symptoms of ASD.
We can give some idea of what everyday life for autistic children and the people around them by describing their behavioural and empathic characteristics.
They reject physical contact; there is either no or only very brief eye contact; they do not respond to their parents’ facial gestures; they do not point to objects or actions to draw attention to them or look at objects that their parents point to; they do not properly use facial expressions to show feelings; they show no kind of concern for others; they normally do not have friends and show no interest in making them.
At 16 months, they are normally still unable to say isolated words. They do not point at objects they need or share with others. They tend to repeat what others say without understanding the meaning; they do not usually answer to their names, though they sometimes respond to other sounds. They appear to be uninterested in communicating.
In many cases, they make repetitive movements with their head, arms or hands and suck their fingers.
These children suffer great frustration because they cannot convey and express their emotions. In many cases they have no verbal language, but probably do want to communicate. Imagine living like that.
In cases of severe autism, many children and adolescents display unstable and aggressive behaviour, often including self-harming. This causes major problems for keeping them under control, often necessitating the use of neuroleptic drugs or benzodiazepines to solve behavioural issues.
Prospects for use of phytocannabinoids
As we have said, the ECS is involved in controlling these processes; as early as the foetal period it regulates the essential processes related to neuron differentiation and synapse positioning.
Some studies have shown that ECS CB1 receptors —the most common in the central nervous system— show functional alterations in the cerebral regions involved in autism, such as the hippocampus and basal ganglia.
If this is one of the causes (or a decisive factor) in ASD, the most appropriate cannabinoid might be thought to be THC, since there are also studies that implicate the CB2 receptor in ASD.
THC is the cannabinoid that acts by way of these two receptors, CB1 and CB2.
However, cannabidiol or CBD has been shown to be of great interest for intervention in ASD. Its mechanisms of action differ from those of THC, although they both act on GPR55 receptors and also on transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV). All of these receptors are also found in the central nervous system.
The effect of CBD is very unusual. As we have said, many children with ASD display aggressive behaviour and often self-harm. The “conduct normalising” effect is of great interest, since there are no signs of sedation; patients remain properly alert and have no difficulty remaining so. However, in many cases their behaviour is stabilised (though I must reiterate that it is always necessary to assess the severity of the patient’s condition).
Some patients acquire skills they had either lost or never had, such as getting dressed on their own, interacting with the tablet, listening to music and paying attention to their surroundings when out walking. They are less inclined to reject physical contact and may even give hugs, possibly for the first time in years. Their facial expressions improve and they can hold eye contact.
Many children with ASD seem to be unhappy and to be in constant pain or suffering. However, once they start treatment this situation appears to change — or at least improve. Some smile or even laugh!
These changes might seem trivial, but for the children’s parents, they are a major breakthrough and offer some glimmer of hope where none had previously existed.
No clinical trials are yet available to provide the necessary statistics on the effectiveness of cannabinoid use in ASD. Nor have any studies been conducted on prolonged medium and long term use of CBD or on potential unwanted consequences. However, for the moment CBD has shown to be safe and very untoxic. Indeed, no maximum dose has yet been identified.
We know, then, that both of these cannabinoids can be effective in cases of ASD. I think we now have to determine the most effective treatments, in terms of the ratio or proportion of THC to CBD which should be used.
Patients must not display any form of psychoactive effect from THC. Initially, CBD should be used. Only subsequently should we assess the need to add differing proportions of THC, until an improvement is achieved in different areas, depending in all cases on the patient’s evolution. Evidently, it is essential to assess the effectiveness of treatment and be vigilant for the possible appearance of any side effects.
Each case must be appraised on its own merits; no two patients are the same. It is also extremely important that clinical trials be conducted, to allow us to work with scientifically proven data. Although there is plenty of information available on cannabinoids, it is mostly based on preclinical data, essentially from animal experiments.
- Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome