What We Know About CBD and Autism
Research on the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) is limited, but that’s not stopping people from trying it out for themselves. Many CBD users report it acts as natural supplement for their physical and mental health. . But, what about autism?
1 in 68 children in the United States have autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What is autism?
Autism refers to a condition characterized by challenges with the following:
- Social skills
- Repetitive behaviors
- Nonverbal communication
- Sensory issues
These are just some of the early signs, but there isn’t just one type of autism. Autism is unique, and comes with its own strengths and challenges.
CBD Shows Promise in Reducing Symptoms of Autism.
One Israeli study, published in the journal Neurology, showed that conditions in children with autism improved by 80%.
The children received treatment with CBD oil for at least seven months. After treatment, the parents answered a variety of questions ranging from behavioral changes, anxiety levels and communication abilities.
They found the following:
- 80% of parents reported a decrease in problematic behavior
- 62% noted their children’s behavior improve significantly
- Half of the children had improve communications
- 40% said anxiety symptoms improved (⅓ of participants didn’t have anxiety prior to the study)
Despite these findings, it’s difficult to find research in the United States on the benefits of CBD, let alone in children. It’s is a taboo topic that is just beginning to gain more attention.
Why Hemp so Taboo?
Perhaps because people often link hemp and marijuana. Yes, they are both from the cannabis plant, but their effects on our brains are different. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that binds directly to our brain receptors and creates a euphoric feeling. Whereas,CBD comes from hemp and doesn’t create any psychoactive effects. Essentially, CBD acts as a natural addition to your daily routine without the effects of THC.
The Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of the first prescription drug made from cannabis, Epidiolex, shows promise in changing the stigma. Epidiolex is a CBD oil that aims to reduce rare forms of epilepsy that begin in early childhood.
It’s not uncommon for other medical conditions to develop along with autism. For example, studies suggest children with autism are at a higher risk of developing epilepsy compared to the rest of the population.
Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation donated 4.7 million dollars to the University of California San Diego for research on the benefits of CBD for children with autism. This marks the largest known donation for medicinal cannabis research in the U.S.
The study aims to research the following:
- If CBD is safe and tolerable
- Whether it alleviates adverse symptoms of autism
- Determine if and how CBD alters brain wave activity, neurotransmitters and/or brain network connectivity
- If biomarkers of neuroinflammation (also thought to be associated with autism) are altered by CBD
Research suggests CBD interacts with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which is responsible for ensuring our bodies are balanced. Our ECS is also responsible for regulating many of the bodies physiological responses and systems. These systems include: mood, appetite, sleep, and pain response.
“It is becoming more apparent that CBD has a number of effects on the central nervous system that may be relevant to autism,” said Igor Grant, MD, CMCR director and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, “And there are anecdotal reports suggesting CBD treatments may improve functioning in an ASD child.”
According to Grant, our ECS is linked to characteristics that are atypical in ASD.
These features are the following:
- Social reward responsivity
- Neural development
- Cardiac rhythm
- Anxiety-related symptoms
“That makes the endocannabinoid system a prime region for finding and testing new, potentially therapeutic compounds, such as CBD,” said Grant.
Although it’s not proven that CBD can reduce symptoms of autism, it shows potential. It’s evident there is a need for more research before any conclusions are drawn.