Cannabis-based autism treatments front and center at suburban conference
Parents of children diagnosed with autism recently sat in the ballroom of suburban Chicago hotel listening attentively as a renowned neurologist extolled the benefits of using cannabis to treat the disorder.
During his May 25 speech, Ronald Aung-Din, M.D. made clear that non-psychoactive Cannabidiol, or CBD, was a viable treatment for the disorder during his presentation at the AutismOne Conference at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard.
Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States. Given that every autism diagnosis is unique, the disorder has been difficult to treat using traditional drugs, according to Aung-Din.
“The pharmaceutical industry has not met the needs of some of these patients, and as a traditional physician I was very much dependent on pharmaceuticals,” said Aung-Din, one of the few doctors in the country licensed to prescribe medical cannabis.
Ronald Aung-Din, M.D. | Ronald Aung-Din website
Traditional medications tend to target the symptoms of a condition, but CBD goes after the cause of those symptoms, he said. Pharmaceuticals generally stimulate or block receptors to provide their function, while cannabis-based treatments change or adjust receptors in the brain.
This means CBD can be used to treat a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression and epilepsy — which affects about a third of people diagnosed with autism.
“[CBD] is most well known for its medical benefits,” Aung-Din said matter of factly.
The Sarasota-based neurologist also detailed the largely positive results of 60 peer-reviewed studies that looked at the effects of medical marijuana on conditions like Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia, among others.
Federal restrictions have stifled more extensive testing from taking place in the U.S., but anecdotal evidence has shown that CBD helps children with autism in ways other medications haven’t. An Israeli study that’s expected to wrap up by the end of the year seeks to determine whether that link is real.
Despite the lack of research, some parents have already turned to CBD to treat their children.
Ivan Kozac flew from Rio De Janeiro to attend the five-day conference. His 7-year-old son, Ziggy, is autistic and has remained nonverbal throughout his young life. Kozac faulted healthcare professionals for being attached to “big pharma and the old school stuff,” adding that Ziggy had previously been prescribed an anti-psychotic medication that dulled his personality.
The family ultimately turned to CBD when Ziggy started having seizures. Aside from having trouble getting a prescription, their experience with the drug has been positive.
“The seizures are not gone but they reduced and his overall behavior is way better,” Kozac said. “So now I’m trying to understand a little bit more.”
Ziggy takes CBD orally twice a day, but his father is worried that the method may be affecting his digestive system. Kozac remains open to trying new ways to medicate his son with the drug, which there are no shortage of. A portion of Aung-Din’s treatment, dubbed Direct Effects Technology, calls for patients to apply CBD oil to the back of their necks.
Adriane Polynak, a conference vendor, used her booth to educate parents and other folks about her company’s line of CBD products.
Polynak started Kentucky-based Bluegrass Hemp Oil in 2014 after her 12-year-old son, Colten, went through a “pharmaceutical roulette” when he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Traditional treatments caused Colten to experience serious side effects, including rage, weight gain and near-organ failure. After starting CBD, those symptoms completely dissipated.
Colten Polynak | Bluegrass Hemp Oil website
“He’s doing fantastic,” Polynak said. “He’s pharma-free and seizure free now.”
Colten is now working at his grade level in school and he’s able to play the sports he always wanted to. Plus, he’s started smiling again, a development his adoring mother gushed about.
“He is completely back to normal, driving us crazy,” Polynak added jokingly.
The booth was also selling branded t-shirts to benefit the Kentuckiana Children’s Center in Louisville, a children’s hospital designed to help children with autism and other special needs. Many of the children with autism in the program use CBD products made by Polynak.
A mother whose son is involved in the program reported incredible improvements after he started using the drug, according to Polynak.
“After the mom started integrating our product in her son’s daily routine, she saw an increase in sleep, a decrease in constipation, an increase in focus, an increase in language and a decrease in meltdowns,” she said.
Cbd oil for autism in illinois
Illinois Adds Autism As Qualifying Condition For Medical Marijuana – The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board in Illinois has become the first in the nation to approve medical marijuana as a treatment for autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a wide range of social impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive and restricted behaviors. Individuals with autism can be both verbal and non-verbal, and oftentimes have physical health issues associated with the condition.
Autism was added to the Illinois state list of qualifying conditions alongside seven other ailments, including: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, intractable pain, chronic pain syndrome, chronic pain due to trauma, and chronic post-operative pain.
In order for children to qualify for the medical marijuana program in Illinois, they must have written approval from two doctors.
Advocates have been pushing for recognizing the benefits of medical marijuana as a treatment for autism for years. In California—where medical marijuana can be recommended for any ailment a doctor deems appropriate—there have been patients who’ve been allowed to treat autism with the plant. One of the more notable cases is the story of Joey, whose mother Meiko Hester Perez organized the Unconventional Foundation for Autism. His mother’s tireless advocacy has lead to a custom strain of medical marijuana for the treatment of autism named Joey’s Strain, developed by Buds and Roses Collective in Studio City, California.
In a June 2015 case from Puerto Rico, autistic nine year-old Kalel Santiago spoke his first words following his family’s administration of an oral CBD spray. Being non-verbal his entire life, he unexpected recitation of “A-E-I-O-U” was a shock to his parents and teachers alike. In the words of his father, “You can’t imagine the emotion we had, hearing Kalel’s voice for the first time. It was amazing. The teacher recorded him and sent it to my wife and me, and we said, ‘well, the only different thing we’ve been doing is using the CBD.’”
Despite encouraging movement in the medical marijuana and autism conversation, adding autism as a qualifying condition has also received backlash in recent months. In August, government officials in Michigan rejected the state panel’s recommendation to add the condition despite the panel’s 4-2 approval. Mike Zimmer, the director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), rejected the measure on grounds that he sees the potential for medical marijuana to do more harm than good for individuals with mild cases of autism. The hearings were also marred with controversy—which lead to the panel’s decision being delayed eight days—after representatives from LARA admitted to panel members that they had omitted 800 pages of research filed in support of adding autism as a qualifying condition.
CBD Oil Proving Beneficial For Individuals With Autism
We have previously documented the potential benefits of marijuana for autism, as well as the controversy surrounding its use for treatment. However, in recent years, CBD consumption by those with autism spectrum disorders has skyrocketed due to repeated claims that the hemp and cannabis-based compound is helping to improve the quality of life for users.
Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is one of over 100 components found in the cannabis plant but unlike its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cousin, CBD does not contain the psychoactive properties associated with marijuana use. This means CBD users can obtain the potential medical benefits of cannabis without getting high.
Marijuana (cannabis) and hemp-derived products, including CBD, are known to provide relief from chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, seizures, fibromyalgia, autism and other related conditions.
Most CBD products available on the market are made from industrial hemp, which contains almost no THC (less than 0.3% in the US). However, the legality of CBD is quite murky, particularly when it is the cannabis/marijuana-derived version. Laws vary by state and restrictions are even tighter when marijuana-based CBD is used recreationally. Hemp-derived CBD is the most commonly available version but also the less-desirable due to several studies suggesting that THC, combined with CBD can have greater health benefits.
CBD for autism has a wide range of success stories from parents and caregivers. One of the more high-profile cases comes from Kalel Santiago, who was non-verbal until the age of 9. After taking CBD for two days, he began to speak and drastically improved in other areas. Other autistic individuals with comorbid conditions such as epilepsy and anxiety have benefited from its efficacy.
CBD can by consumed in a variety of ways (vape products, gummies, etc) but CBD oil is by far the most popular and widely-used form.
As with many other alternative medical treatments, CBD is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so you should check with local and state laws prior to purchase and use. In addition, it is important to note that CBD is still considered a Schedule I substance at the federal level, although there are current discussions by Congress to completely legalize hemp-based CBD.
The following chart is current as of 2018, but marijuana and CBD laws are very dynamic, so further confirmation should be obtained from other sources: