Written by Stanley Clark
CBD for Medical Conditions
How CBD May Benefit People With Autism
ASD includes a wide range of mental conditions and has no cure. Communication disabilities, repetitive characteristic behaviors, and social dysfunctions are among the common symptoms of autism(3). ASD shares particular symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)(4). However, ASD is a distinct disorder
Research indicated that CBD may relieve ASD symptoms effectively(5).
Cannabis products such as CBD oils, capsules, and gummies may thus enhance the wellness of people with ASD and serve as possible prescription drug alternatives.
What Is CBD?
CBD is among the chemical compounds known as cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant. However, it differs from the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces mind-altering effects(6).
Researchers have conducted various studies to examine CBD’s effects on symptoms like chronic pain(7). CBD’s efficacy may be gauged through various means, such as questionnaires. A 2016 study conducted by the Shaare Zedek Medical Center examined the efficacy of cannabidiol in children and adolescents with ASD-related behavioral problems(8). The study’s subjects did not improve with traditional autism treatments. The researchers reported that over half the autistic patients experienced significant behavioral improvements. Furthermore, anxiety issues were reduced by 39%, communication issues decreased by 47%, and disruptive behaviors improved by 29%(9). The parents also reported decreased stress levels in managing their children, based on their Autism Parenting Stress Index (APSI)(10).The study’s preliminary findings indicated that CBD hemp oil may effectively manage behavioral problems in autistic children. Meanwhile, in another study, ASD patients administered oral drops of CBD oil, under license from the Israeli Ministry of Health(11), The study’s results after 66 days indicated that participants showed improvement in self-injury symptoms (67.6%), hyperactivity (68.4%), sleep quality (71.4%), and anxiety symptoms (47.1%)(12).
The researchers also observed that CBD produced mild adverse effects, such as a change in appetite and sleepiness.
Clinical Trials Examining CBD for Autism
Medical researchers, such as those from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, continue conducting clinical trials on various issues. The research includes whether CBD may reduce the behavioral symptoms of severe ASD(13).
The primary objective of such clinical trials is to investigate the potential therapeutic benefits provided by CBD for helping manage severe ASD.
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notably approved the prescription solution Epidiolex to treat rare types of epilepsy, including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome(14).
Researchers are studying the effects of CBD on autism symptoms as they include possibly severe behavior problems that may limit a child’s capabilities to learn and socialize(15).
How CBD Works to Help People With Autism
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network mainly responsible for regulating a wide range of bodily functions. It is believed to have a critical role in managing autism(16). The ECS’ effects are primarily expressed through cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors(17). An ECS study in 2015 showed that endocannabinoid signaling has a crucial role in several human health conditions and diseases within the central nervous system (CNS)(18). The researchers reported that the ECS plays a key role in brain development and social reward responsiveness, both critical in the treatment of autism(19). In another study with ASD patients, researchers noted that oral CBD use decreased the comorbidities connected to the medical condition(20). The most significant improvements were seen in issues such as rage attacks, self-injury, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, and anxiety. A 2017 observation study review examined the effects of CBD on ASD animal models(21). Similar studies have used subjects such as a mouse model.
This study suggested that introducing alterations related to anandamide signaling and the ECS’ CB1 receptor may respectively improve social skills and cognitive effects in animal models. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that helps with inflammation and neuron signaling. CBD may improve anandamide signaling by plants, inhibiting the enzyme that causes it to degrade, according to a 2012 research report(22).
These studies and clinical data show that CBD may help relieve ASD symptoms and improve autistic children’s quality of life based on how the cannabinoid interacts with the ECS. However, these are inconclusive medical studies and clinical data. Additional research is required to validate CBD’s effects on autism and the condition’s symptoms.
Usage of CBD for Autism
These are some key considerations when using CBD to help manage autism symptoms.
CBD and Medical Marijuana
CBD and medicinal cannabis originate from hemp plants and marijuana plants, respectively. CBD is one of the numerous substances in the Cannabis sativa plant that may contain medicinal properties(23).
The production of CBD oil involves an extraction process, such as CO2 extraction. Then, it is blended with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil.
CBD oil is legal in the United States if produced from industrial hemp(24). Such hemp sources contain under 0.3% of the psychoactive element of the cannabis plant known as THC.
Medical cannabis contains cannabinoids like CBD, although it also contains more THC and is harvested differently(25). Cannabis treatments through marijuana, which has high amounts of THC, are illegal under U.S. federal laws. However, numerous states have recently passed laws that made medical marijuana use legal for individuals with a prescription from a doctor.
Benefits of CBD for Autism and Epilepsy
Past research indicated that autism may connect definitively with the neurological condition epilepsy, which is characterized by recurring seizures.
Research shows that autistic children over 10 are 2.35 times more likely to have epilepsy compared to younger children(26).
In neurology, such seizures may result from brain development, causing cells and neurons to act abnormally(27).
CBD oil’s anticonvulsant properties may help individuals with seizures and epilepsy(28).
Using CBD to Treat Autism-Related Aggression
Based on anecdotal evidence, parents are often concerned about aggressive behavior, physical violence, and fits of rage among their autistic children. Sedation is crucial in such scenarios.
CBD oil serves as an option for parents who seek alternatives to prescription medicines to address their autistic children’s strong emotions(29). More research is required on issues such as cognitive excitation and inhibition to provide scientists with a clearer understanding of how CBD interacts with the brain functionality of a child with autism.
CBD Dosage for Autism
No standard dosages exist for the quantity of cannabis oil that should be administered to an autistic person. A particular study on CBD labeling revealed no consistent doses among wide-ranging CBD concentrations of CBD products offered online(30).
A better methodology than the trial and error approach may be to start at a low dosage. Parents can gradually increase their child’s CBD dosage to achieve the desired effects while the substance remains well tolerated.
Another approach is to apply CBD products dependent on a child’s bodyweight and the severity of their autism symptoms. It is highly suggested to consult a pediatrician or other doctor to recommend the CBD oil dosage ideal for autism.
Prescription Requirement for CBD Oil
A child does not require a prescription to take CBD oil for autism. Rather, a physician can help determine the best CBD oil for meeting an autistic child’s needs.
Health food stores are one location for finding CBD oils for those residing in states without legalized medical marijuana.
Several CBD oil products for autism are available on the market. Thus, it is critical to research a particular brand and read reviews to determine the best CBD product for one’s child.
Administering CBD to Autistic Children: Safety, Risks, and Side Effects
Before providing CBD to children with autism spectrum disorder, here are some critical matters to consider:
Preliminary evidence suggested that CBD has potential as a treatment option for people with ASD. An example is a comprehensive study performed at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, led by Adi Aran, MD(31).
Aran’s team examined the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabidiol for children with autism-caused behavioral problems. The study included 60 autistic children who experienced no improvement of their development disorder through traditional ASD treatments(32). The children between the ages of 5 to 17 received oral CBD for their autism.The study’s preliminary findings suggested that hemp oil may effectively manage behavioral problems among children with ASD.
Risks and Side Effects
Past studies indicated that CBD is a safe chemical compound for children. It may, however, cause side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea(33).
In contrast, the common ASD drug risperidone may produce side effects in rare instances, including drowsiness, weight gain, involuntary movements, and hormonal changes(34).
Parents must determine whether CBD’s health benefits outweigh the possible side effects. It is always critical to consult a doctor’s advice if one has any questions regarding a child’s medical condition.