CBD oil has been making plenty of headlines in recent years, receiving praise for its far-reaching benefits that seem to apply to most conditions. This substance is not a miracle treatment of autism, but it can do wonders for a long list of conditions, including autism.
Take the time to learn about how this compound works and how it can help those with autism minimize their symptoms and daily disruptions.
Before you can take a look at how CBD is used for autism, you must understand what it is. CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it is one of the main elements found in the cannabis plant. There are many of these elements, but you are most likely to have heard of this one or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
It Is Not Psychoactive
The most important thing to know about this substance is that it is not psychoactive. This means that to consume products like oil will not result in a high or other similar effects that could potentially interfere with your daily functioning. In contrast, THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis. This means that if you choose a product that does not contain the latter, you can get the benefits of the cannabinoids without the psychoactive effects.
This lack of psychoactive effects makes CBD highly appealing for a range of situations. Those who must undergo drug tests can take it without concerns about passing. Additionally, people who use the substance do not have to worry about it interfering with their work or school. The absence of psychoactive effects also makes it an increasingly popular choice for use in kids.
Forms of Ingesting CBD
Historically, the only way to ingest CBD and use it for treating conditions was to smoke or otherwise consume cannabis. Now, however, CBD can be extracted from the plants’ buds and flowers. This has led to a wide range of products that contain it without the other elements of marijuana.
One of the most common methods of ingesting this substance is via oil. This is typically just the extract itself and carrier oil. You can consume the oil alone or mix it into something else.
You can also take CBD like you would most other supplements, in a capsule or soft gel. These come in varying doses and offer convenience and versatility.
Just like other vitamins, you can also find gummies with this substance. They will be pre-dosed for convenience and have a tasty flavor.
There are also other edibles that have CBD as one of their ingredients.
Adults with autism can also choose to vape CBD oil or a similar formula.
There are also various patches, topical creams, and other products infused with this substance.
Smoking or vaping will bring you the effects the quickest, typically followed by sublingual tinctures, with edibles taking the longest. Topical versions will also take a while. Generally, the longer the effects take to start, the longer they will last.
The Legality of CBD – Hemp Vs. Cannabis
Those who live in an area where cannabis is completely legal will not have any concerns regarding CBD products; they will always be legal.
If you live in a state where cannabis is illegal, recreationally, medically, or for both situations, then you will be glad to know that it is still legal, provided it comes from the proper source. The key here is to get hemp-based CBD since hemp plants are legal across the United States under the 2018 Farm Bill. Most hemp oil will not contain any psychoactive substances, making it legal. If it has more than 0.3 percent of THC, then it will not count as hemp and is only legal in areas with legal marijuana.
Choosing Full Spectrum Vs. Isolates
There are two main categories of products: full spectrums and isolates. Isolates only contain cannabidiol, without any other elements of the cannabis plant. In contrast, full spectrum products are “whole plant” products, meaning they also contain terpenes, flavonoids, and other elements.
Benefits of Full Spectrum
Full-spectrum products tend to produce slightly better results for autism and other conditions. This comes from the entourage effect, which means that combining various elements of marijuana works better than using the elements individually.
Benefits of Isolates
The most significant benefit of isolates is that they will not contain any psychoactive components. Full spectrum products typically have less than 0.3 percent, but this may be enough to show up on a drug test. If you must pass drug tests, opt for an isolate.
Dosing CBD for Autism
Those who want to use CBD to assist with autism will not find any official recommendations on dosing. The legal gray area of cannabis means that there has been minimal research so far on dosages and even a lack of official research on benefits.
When treating autism, or any other condition, with CBD, you should always start with a lower dose and work your way up. This will help your body adjust to it and let you confirm that you are not one of the rare people who have a negative reaction to the compound.
A quick search online should show you a few recommendations of starting doses, with most for adults. Very few suggested doses are for autism, in specific. Suggested starting doses may be as low as 4 milligrams for those with mild autism who weigh less than 25 pounds.
What Affects Dosage
Remember that children with autism will need much lower doses than adults since the dosage depends on factors like body weight. Other factors affecting dosage include body chemistry and the severity of the condition.
How CBD Helps With Autism
Knowing that CBD can be helpful to those with autism is one thing, but you likely want to understand why this is the case. It all has to do with your endocannabinoid system. This system gets signals from the cannabinoids entering your body, specifically the nervous system, brain, and bloodstream.
Your endocannabinoid system approaches neurons and attaches to their cannabinoid receptors. This system controls the neuron’s actions at their next activation, affecting the body and mind. This system allows the CBD to assist with the regulation of pain, neuronal excitability, anxiety, hunger, protection, and more. It can even help suppress seizures.
Symptoms of Autism That It Reduces
One of the many ways that CBD can help with autism spectrum disorder is by assisting with attention and focus. It can be hard to remain focused for those with autism, but the substance can change the attention spectrum.
It can also help alleviate other conditions that tend to be linked to autism, including stress, sleeplessness, anxiety, and epilepsy. Since it alleviates the symptoms of many of the associated disorders, it can reduce the most challenging components of autism. After all, each of the symptoms relieved can improve other aspects of an autistic person’s life.
When someone experiences fewer seizures, it becomes easier to engage in social interactions and reduces stress. When someone sleeps better and has reduced anxiety, this may lead to a reduction in aggressiveness.
This relief of symptoms can help adults and children with autism. At the same time, they also provide relief for parents of children with autism, as they will have fewer concerns about their children’s aggression, sleeplessness, and other challenging behaviors.
Other Benefits of CBD
CBD also has a long list of other benefits, including for those with other conditions. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, neuroprotective, and anticonvulsant properties. It can also help with dependence, anxiety, depression, and pain.
Research Into CBD’s Benefits for Autism
Unfortunately, the lack of cannabis legality at the federal level means that there have been very limited clinical trials exploring its benefits so far. Some studies have taken place, but not enough for conclusive evidence that CBD can treat autism and other conditions. Even so, early research is very promising, and there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to supplement it.
The lack of research is further limited when you look at autism in children due to the difficulties associated with studying children, including additional moral concerns. There are also concerns regarding studying the impact of cannabis treatment in children given what is known about its effects on their developing brains.
Harvard Review and Boston Children’s Hospital – 2015
In 2015, the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Review created a baseline study of the research on cannabis so far. They conclude that most research so far was based on animals and did not show the impact on humans. The review suggested that due to the lack of research, people should opt for medical cannabis as a last resort after exhausting other conventional medicines.
Chile – 2017 Retrospective Study
Much of the research regarding the impact of CBD on children is retrospective and relies largely on self-reported data on factors like communication, disruptive behaviors, and anxiety. One of these studies took place in 2017 in Chile. It looked at 20 children who received an oil tincture orally over three months. The study did not provide enough information, as it did not state the dose of CBD or THC, only that they had a 1:1 ratio. It did find that caregivers reported the participants improved in one or more of the core autism symptoms, such as repetitive behaviors, language, and social communication.
Dr. Aran and colleagues completed another retrospective study, showing behavioral improvements.
Israel – 2014 and On
The Ministry of Health in Israel started offering licenses to treat children with epilepsy using cannabis. There were positive results on a range of symptoms, including aggression, tantrums, self-injurious behavior, anxiety, social communication, and sleep. While this study did not focus on treating autism with cannabis, it does show a great deal of promise since it was conducted on children. As such, it gives researchers an idea of what to expect in terms of side effects on children who use medical marijuana. The study found that these effects were minimal, and if they did exist, they were mild.
More research into the impact of CBD on ASD will appear soon. For example, there will soon be a San Diego study conducted by Traumer. This will be a double-blind placebo-controlled study that looks at using a synthetic form of the substance on kids who have severe autism. The goal is to see whether it has the potential to improve the most problematic symptoms, like persistent, repetitive behaviors, self-injurious behavior, aggressive behavior, and hyperactivity. As legalization occurs, more research will likely take place.
Autism and Epilepsy
There is a surprising amount of overlap between those with autism and those with epilepsy. While 2 percent of those in the general population have epilepsy, this increases to 33 percent among those with autism.
The relationship between the two conditions is still unclear, but it is important when it comes to CBD. That is because epilepsy is one of the only conditions with solid evidence that this substance can help it. For now, experts feel that perhaps the connection between autism and epilepsy is due to the unique brain development that takes place in autistic children.
As mentioned, the link between the two conditions is crucial due to the evidence showing the ability of CBD to lessen the symptoms of seizure conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, the first medication containing the substance. It treats Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare childhood epileptic conditions. Patients with either condition experience early-onset seizures that are challenging to control and can negatively affect the quality of life as well as development. Using the drug results in significant improvements to the symptoms.
Choosing CBD Products for Autism
Choosing the appropriate product for autism can be a challenge due to the lack of regulation. It is not legal to sell CBD oil or related cannabis products and market them with specific claims that the FDA has not confirmed, including their ability to treat autism. Additionally, the FDA treats the substance as a supplement, meaning it is not highly regulated.
As such, you must complete your own research before buying your product of choice. Use the following factors to guide your decision:
Certificate of Analysis
Regardless of the type of product that you choose to buy or the company you purchase it from, you should always look for a certificate of analysis. This should be from an independent company and include information such as the concentration and whether trace minerals or harmful substances are present.
You should also look to see if the company mentions where they get the hemp used to make the product. If it is grown in the United States, then you will know that it must meet all of the appropriate regulations, thus helping to ensure quality. Several other countries also have strong regulations that protect consumers, so you should research the regulations in area that the hemp is grown.
Free From Chemicals
Additionally, pay attention to how the hemp was grown. It should be clear from chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Despite cleaning the hemp before extraction, some of these chemicals can remain in trace quantities.
Your Preferred Format
You will also want to consider whether you prefer oil, gummies, capsules, edibles, or another form. You will also have to choose between a full-spectrum product and an isolate. Some companies may even offer variety packs so that you can try a few options.
What to Do Before Starting CBD for Autism
Before you begin using CBD for ASD or start treating your child’s autism using it, you should take a few necessary steps. These actions will ensure safety and help minimize the already-low chances of negative effects.
Consult the Doctor
Start by consulting with your doctor (or your child’s doctor). This will let you confirm that you do not have any sensitivities or allergies that may be concerning. It will also let you ensure that there will not be any pharmaceutical reactions.
Take a few minutes to confirm that it is legal in your jurisdiction. Within the United States, it should be legal as long as there is no psychoactive component, but this can vary by country.
Do Your Research
As mentioned, do your research on your chosen product before buying it. This will help you ensure you choose a quality source without potentially harmful ingredients.
Record Current Symptoms
Although it is not necessary, it would be wise to make careful notes of your current symptoms related to autism that you hope to overcome. This way, you can compare the symptoms after you begin taking it to determine whether it had a positive impact.
Safety in Kids
While most research currently shows that there are minimal side effects associated with CBD, you should always keep in mind that there is minimal research on its effects on children so far. As such, you should keep a careful eye on your child to ensure there are no serious problems. While this is unlikely, it is still possible. It is less likely than the potential effects of cannabis since the substance is isolated.
So far, most of the research on effects comes from the trials for Epidiolex found minor issues like diarrhea, lethargy, decrease in appetite, and abnormalities in liver function. Still, more research needs to be conducted on the long-term effects, both in children and adults.
At the very least, it seems that patients, including kids, are much less likely to experience serious effects from this natural substance than they are from traditional pharmaceutical medications.
To keep your children safe, always store the chosen product out of your child’s reach. This is particularly important if you opt for a form such as gummies, which may seem like candy to your child. If your child gets a hold of the product and consumes too much, this is unlikely to be lethal. It could, however, cause other issues. In the case of products with 0.3 percent or less psychoactive components, consuming too much could also cause intoxication.
The Bottom Line
Among its many uses, CBD shows promise for helping those with autism. There is some early evidence that it could reduce many of the most problematic symptoms associated with autism, such as self-injurious behavior, aggressive behavior, and loss of focus. Using this product should be legal in all parts of the United States thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, provided it is hemp-based. This substance has minimal side effects and a great deal of potential for autism, with already proven results for epilepsy.