Have you been following the recent news reporting the benefits of CBD oils for autism? While scientific studies are underway, families report CBD oils can reduce stress for people on the autism spectrum, as well as lessen aggression, self-injurious behaviors, and anxiety surrounding social interactions.
Recent reports indicate CBD can aid children with co-occurring seizures. But what about the use of medical marijuana to relieve autism symptoms? Read on to find out how these substances differ and the latest research.
How is CBD oil different than medical marijuana?
First, let’s review the difference between cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical marijuana. CBD is just one of many substances with medicinal properties within the cannabis plant. When CBD oil is produced, it is extracted and mixed with a carrier such as fractionated coconut oil. CBD oil is legal in the United States if produced using industrial hemp or hemp imported from Europe as it contains less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive element in the cannabis plant, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Medical marijuana is somewhat similar to CBD oil in that is contains cannabinoids, though it is harvested differently and contains THC. In the US, marijuana and THC are illegal under federal law placing them on the controlled substances list. Recently, several states have passed cannabis-related laws that make medical marijuana legally accessible with a prescription from a licensed physician. A few states have taken it a step further and made recreational use of marijuana legal.
Does CBD oil work for autism? — Can CBD help manage autism?
Since CBD oil is hemp-derived and only contains trace amounts of psychoactive THC, it is not psychoactive, and your child will not feel “high” after using the oil, unlike patients who use THC-containing medical marijuana.
The role of CBD oil for autism with anxiety is twofold. Firstly, some children with autism find that using CBD oil for anxiety alleviates not only stress but also aggression, self-injurious behaviors, and trouble with social interactions. Secondly, CBD oil can help children with co-occurring seizures. Of course, each child’s experience with CBD oil is unique, but in states where medical marijuana is illegal, parents are reporting positive CBD oil benefits for autism and epilepsy. Because CBD is not psychoactive, it is the option most parents prefer for their children over medical marijuana.
Many children who use CBD oil for autism and epilepsy find the same (or better) relief from their symptoms as they do with traditional anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant medications with the added bonus of fewer side effects. Researchers are still working to identify how CBD oil can help anxiety in autism, but for many families, the anecdotal evidence is enough for now.
What are the risks of using CBD oil for autism?
Studies suggest CBD oil for autism is perfectly safe to administer to children; however, some side effects to watch for include:
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Anxiety and depression
For most children, the health benefits of CBD oil for autism outweigh the side effects. As with any medication, always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding treatment and your child’s medical condition; never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it.
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CBD oil does not stimulate the appetite in the same way medical marijuana can. While the research is still unclear as to how CBD oil influences weight, anecdotal and clinical evidence suggests that it is more likely to suppress appetite. This is possibly due to a boost in metabolism. Currently, the most comprehensive research consisted of animal studies in which rats are tested with CBD. Comprehensive studies on the link between weight and CBD oil in humans are underway but not yet conclusive.
Since parents have started using CBD oil to help ease aggression in their children caused by autism, the anecdotal evidence has been overwhelmingly positive. Some parents report that their children who used to be unreachable during fits of rage are able to implement calming techniques; other parents report decreased instances of physical violence.
In 2010, Lester Grinspoon, MD urged doctors to take this anecdotal evidence seriously and conduct further medical research on the effects of CBD oil on aggression. Many researchers are focused on the question of what causes autism aggression rather on guiding research efforts towards looking for ways to manage the aggression that many children with autism and their families have to navigate daily.
CBD oil for anger and aggression is a welcomed option for many families who have previously tried medications traditionally used to help children with autism deal with strong emotions. As more research is completed on medical marijuana, CBD oil, and autism, scientists will have a better idea of how CBD interacts with the brain of a child with autism and why it is so effective.
Scientists believe autism shares a strong link with epilepsy, a neurological condition that involves recurring seizures. According to recent studies reported by the American Epilepsy Society (AES), 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism also have epilepsy. According to scientists, these seizures may be the result of differences in brain development, which can make cells and neurons act abnormally. The anticonvulsant properties of the CBD oil are believed to help people with seizures and epilepsy.
According to CBD International, these properties work on different targets such as calcium ion channels, glutamate receptor antagonists, sodium ion channels, and the GATA system and receptor agonists, in the brain. “Anticonvulsants may affect the neurotransmitters responsible for sending messages or attach themselves to the neurons. This is done to alter the activity of the cell by switching how ions flow into and out of the neurons.”
What is Charlotte’s Web and why do many parents use it?
The production process of Charlotte’s Web whole-plant hemp extract provides CBD, CBC, CBG, and other beneficial phytocompounds. Its production is overseen from seed to bottle to ensure the highest quality product. Not only do they extract using only flowers and stems, but the soils are tested and cleared of heavy metals and contaminants before planting. Charlotte’s Web is named after a young girl named Charlotte Figi with epilepsy who reduced hundreds of weekly seizures to only a few per month with the oil.
CBD oil for autism — is it perfectly safe to administer to children?
Laws surrounding CBD vary widely, so always connect with your child’s doctor and confirm legality. It is also imperative to be on the lookout for fake CBD oil containing a synthetic compound that can make people very sick.
Where to buy CBD oil for autism
Of course, every parent’s primary concern is his/her child’s health and safety. To be sure your child gets the most good from his/her experience with CBD oil, you need to start with a high-quality oil. Since CBD oil is mostly unregulated, choosing the right CBD oil for autism is the responsibility of a well-researched parent. If medical marijuana is legal in your state, a dispensary with an excellent reputation is a great place to look for oil for your child. Dispensaries.com has an interactive map to help you locate places to buy CBD oil for autism.
Does my child need a prescription for CBD oil, and does insurance cover CBD oil?
No, your child does not need a prescription for CBD oil. Your doctor can help you identify the best product for your child’s needs. If you live in an area where medical marijuana is not yet legal, health food stores will likely be the best place to find CBD oil. There are many different types of CBD oil strains for autism, so be sure to research the company’s ethics and reviews to find the most effective one for your child.
How much CBD oil do I need to give my child with ADHD and autism?
There is currently very little research on the best CBD oil dosage for autism. Finding what works best for your child will likely take some trial and error; however, the process might be an easier one for your child than with traditional prescription medication. The most common CBD oil side effects, such as decreased appetite, fatigue, and drowsiness, are frequently reported at lower levels than with antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and anticonvulsants. Your child’s pediatrician can help you determine how to administer CBD oil for autism. CBD oil dosages are measured in “drops.”
The appropriate number of drops to give your child will vary based on the potency of the CBD oil and your child’s symptoms. Contact your child’s pediatrician to help determine how much oil is safe for your child and if you have any concerns as to how he/she is responding to CBD oil. Your child’s pediatrician will guide you on how many drops of CBD oil for autism and anxiety is appropriate for your child.
Can my child with autism overdose on CBD oil?
While many experts say you cannot overdose on CBD oil, it is essential to be mindful of dosing to avoid unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea/vomiting and diarrhea. Always discuss dosage with your child’s doctor for safety.
Cannabis and autism behavioral improvement
Many parents of children with autism are advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana to help treat some of the symptoms of autism, including reducing anxiety, self-injurious behaviors, sleep dysregulation, and trouble with social interactions.
Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA) is a parent advocacy group with chapters in seven U.S. states (Arizona, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa, and Illinois). MAMMA’s goal is to give all children with autism legal access to medical marijuana under the care of a physician. The group’s website provides testimonials from 10 families who claim marijuana has dramatically helped their child’s symptoms. Several of these families consider themselves “medical refugees,” moving across state lines so their children will be eligible for the use of medical marijuana for seizures and other qualifying conditions. MAMMA USA provides an updated list of states where medical marijuana is legal for autism.
Other families submitted testimonials anonymously and say they will continue to use marijuana illegally until legislation is passed in their states or autism is considered a qualifying condition. Most of the testimonials praise marijuana for helping their children reduce self-injurious behaviors and regulate their moods and sleep, with some families claiming that the plant reduced their child’s seizures, a common co-occurring symptom of autism. The families affiliated with MAMMA and other similar groups say medical marijuana alleviates their child from the side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals sometimes prescribed for children with autism, including antipsychotic medications.
Additional medications traditionally used to help children with ASD
In a study published in 2008 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, atypical antipsychotics are described as “indispensable in the treatment of a variety of symptoms in autism.” The study examines the efficacy of haloperidol and risperidone for treating behavioral symptoms commonly associated with autism including aggression, anger, and self-injurious behaviors. It concludes that the medications can alleviate these behaviors when behavioral interventions are ineffective but warns that potential side effects must be considered and weighed.
The most common side effects listed include weight gain, hyperprolactinemia (elevated serum prolactin), sedation, adverse cognitive effects, and tardive dyskinesia (involuntary, repetitive body movements). (Posey, Stigler, Erickson, & McDougle, 2008) While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved these medications for use in children with autism, some parents are still wary of these potential side effects.
Benefits of medical Marijuana https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/benefits-medical-marijuana-autism-studied/
Posey, D. J., Stigler, K. A., Erickson, C. A., & McDougle, C. J. (2008, January 02).
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Antipsychotics in the treatment of autism. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2171144/
Risks and side effects. Retrieved from
Links to epilepsy and autism. Retrieved from
Autism Parenting Magazine tries to deliver honest, unbiased reviews, resources, and advice, but please note that due to the variety of capabilities of people on the spectrum, information cannot be guaranteed by the magazine or its writers. Medical content, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained within is never intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read within.