CBD and Autism: What You Need to Know
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) first was diagnosed almost seventy years ago. It is a pervasive developmental disorder, typically diagnosed very early in life. The difficult diagnosis comes as parents begin noticing that their toddler’s behavior is less interactive than their peers. Throughout the child's early life, it becomes increasingly apparent as the child ages that he or she experiences isolation and detachment far beyond the normal childhood ups and downs.
According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in sixty-eight people in the United States fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Some estimates place this number much higher: one in forty-five people.
Despite roughly seventy years of study, medical research teams have reached few conclusions about what causes ASD and, more importantly, how to cure it. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan for autistic children. Typical programs rely on a multi-pronged approach, including behavioral and cognitive therapies, antipsychotic drugs, and alternative education programs. It often requires years of trial and error before caretakers determine the best treatment option for the child.
As we gain a better understanding of the inner workings of autism, specifically regarding the endocannabinoid system, some parents and doctors have begun experimenting with endocannabinoid approaches to autism therapy. Through individual case studies, such as this 9-Year-Old’s Life-Changing Recovery with CBD, a clearer picture is starting to emerge about the potential benefit of cannabis and CBD for autism. As our understanding of autism continues developing, CBD and autism becomes a viable therapeutic path.
The Endocannabinoid System: A Brief Overview
The endocannabinoid system is a vast network of receptors spread throughout the mammalian body. Its primary purpose is maintaining a stable internal homeostasis. As internal and external stressors have an impact on our bodies, a functional endocannabinoid system rises to the occasion and triggers the release of substances called endocannabinoids. As endocannabinoids kick into action, they strive to return the body to normal operating conditions.
Some common endocannabinoids you may have heard of are serotonin, anandamide, and corticosterone, although there are dozens of others. Learning more about The Endocannabinoids Your Body Produces also can serve to develop a better understanding of CBD’s potential health benefits. These compounds activate or inhibit the function of the various endocannabinoid receptors spread throughout the body.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating a vast number of neurological and physiological processes. Some areas of the endocannabinoid process are better understood than others. In general, the endocannabinoid system is known to manage:
- Stress response
- Pain sensation
- Emotional response
- Immune system
- Nervous system
- ... and much more
Cannabidiol, and all other phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa family of plants, mimic the naturally-produced endocannabinoids in our body. Once metabolized, CBD oil has been found to provide significant benefits for many of the health issues listed above. Its therapeutic potential is undergoing a rapid explosion of research, especially in the following areas:
- Cancer treatment
- Chronic pain
- Appetite regulation
The Endocannabinoid System and Autism
Autism to this day remains one of the most misunderstood developmental disorders, even as it becomes a more common diagnosis across all sectors of society. While a wide variety of therapies are available, there is no clear cookie-cutter solution. It's often a significant struggle for caregivers to find a successful combination of treatments that improve quality of life.
Could CBD hemp oil become a new approach to treating this misunderstood disorder? New research linking endocannabinoid function and ASD seems to suggest so, which is part of the reason why so many parents have started exploring CBD therapy for treating autism.
Several recent theories are connecting the function of the endocannabinoid system to the development of autism. As this avenue unfolds, the potential of a CBD therapy for autism starts rising to the surface of the debate.
Some research has postulated that during formation of the fetal brain in the womb, a mother’s inflammatory response may trigger ASD development later in her child’s life. There is also significant evidence that autistic children continue struggling with inflammatory issues throughout their lives. People with ASD have been shown to have widespread inflammation across their brain.
Upregulation of the CB2 Receptor
During a study of a small group of autistic children between three to nine years of age, researchers discovered that one of the primary endocannabinoid receptors was overactive, or “highly expressed.” This overexpression of the CB2 receptor could be a compensatory role for widespread neurological inflammation.
Almost 30 percent of children with ASD experience seizures. Seizures disrupt brain development through different mechanisms and often lead to additional problems, such as mood disorders and sleep disruption. The associated problems are especially pronounced for children with autism. Some experts believe that brain inflammation may trigger the seizure activity.
Inflammation clearly seems to play a significant role in many aspects of ASD. For instance, did you know that CBD May Helps Prevent Inflammation and Allergies
CBD and Autism
In each of these research areas, CBD could prove to be immensely successful in improving the quality of life of autistic children. Cannabidiol has extraordinary potential as a safe anti-inflammatory agent, already used for a variety of inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. Cannabidiol is quite possibly one of the most powerful all-natural anti-inflammatory agents on the planet.
It also has an affinity for the CB2 receptor, and long has been known to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, especially in children. In one recent study, autistic-like anti-social behaviors completely reversed with CBD therapy in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome, a type of severe epilepsy.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CBD and autism.
Like much of CBD's potential, CBD and autism is in the preliminary stages of research. So far, it’s usually only undertaken by alternative-leaning parents and healthcare practitioners, and only on a limited basis. Cannabidiol has not been endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration yet.
However, parents who have tried CBD hemp oil for autism have reported many positive changes. The word is spreading like wildfire from parent to parent, their personal stories attesting to the profound impacts on the health and well being of their autistic children.
In one notable case study, Dr. Giovanni Martinez, a clinical psychologist in Puerto Rico, prescribed hemp CBD oil to a non-verbal autistic child. After only a few weeks, the child developed some basic language skills. The skills improved his mood and overall well-being because he was able to communicate his needs without frustration. According to the doctor, “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 changes witnessed by Dr. Martinez are worthy of a second look for anyone curious about what CBD could offer their autistic children. Cannabinoids are an extremely safe, all-natural therapy, even with the most sensitive patients. As with any new medication, but especially so with children, always consult with a healthcare practitioner before beginning. The good news is there have yet to be any indications that its use leads to long-term side effects. CBD offers hope for frustrated parents who have been through the wringer with conventional ASD therapy programs, and struggle to find an appropriate therapy for their child with ASD.