CBD Oil for Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder
A generation ago, autism was a condition that most of us had heard of, but few of us had any direct experience with. In the space of a few short years, it seems everyone knows a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. With the diagnosis of ASD sharply on the rise, parents are looking for safe and effective therapies to help manage the wide array of behavioural. communication, and social-impairment symptoms. Whole-plant CBD oil is fast becoming recognised as that safe and effective option.
How does CBD work for autism?
Exactly why CBD has a positive effect on many of the symptoms of autism is the subject of exciting—but as yet unpublished—research being conducted by Israeli paediatric neurologist—Dr Adi Aran and his team—on 93 children with autism.
In 2017, Italian researchers looked at the role that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays in ASD, based on observations that a dysregulated endocannabinoid system is “strongly implicated” in many of the behaviours we see in autism. They concluded that further research is needed to pinpoint exactly what role the ECS plays in regulating the symptoms of autism.
“cannabis should be available…because it costs so little to produce, the risks are so small, and the results so impressive.”
What is autism?
Autism is seen as a developmental disorder characterised by a spectrum of behaviours from mild to severe. Symptoms relate broadly to behaviour, relationships, and communication; and according to psychiatrist—Lester Grinspoon—individuals with autism are characterised by “their apparent inability to form human relationships, abnormal or absent speech, and an unusually limited range of activities and interests.” For a detailed list of symptoms and behaviours, see this Quick Guide to Autism published by Autism Spectrum Australia.
Incidence of autism
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 150 Australians are on the autism spectrum, with four times as many males (80%) diagnosed as females (20%). School-aged children have the highest rates of diagnosis, affecting around 2.8% of 5-14 year olds. That figure has doubled in the last 10 years alone.
Parents want safe solutions for ASD symptoms
Because of the nature of ASD behaviours, the reality is that it’s hard for parents to manage and equally hard for ASD kids to fit in socially at school in a public system that simply doesn’t have the funding or time to understand and meet their complex needs.
Parents want their kids to be safe and understood for who they are, and families in Australia and worldwide are discovering the benefits of CBD oil for children on the autism spectrum.
“They want us to try every registered pharmaceutical pill on the market. And if they don’t work, they’re trying to give people a lobotomy before they give them cannabis oil.”
—Jamie Blake, dad to 5yo Callum, interview with Sydney Criminal Lawyers—
Parents who use CBD oil to treat autism
Dobbed in by a family ‘friend’, the parents of five year old Queensland boy with autism—Callum Blake—were arrested and sent to court for giving him a combination of THCA and CBD oil to treat his non-verbal autism. Cannabis turned Callum from non-verbal to verbal, with his dad Jamie Blake reporting the improvements in his behaviour and co-operation were amazing. After over a year staring down the barrel of a 25-year sentence, Justice Graeme Crow dropped all charges, and the Blakes received a few hundred dollars in fines with no convictions recorded. Little Callum, however, still remains without the medicine that he so desperately needs.
A 2018 survey of over 557 American parents giving their children CBD oil to treat autism symptoms revealed that over 75% of those parents believed that CBD was either moderately or extremely effective in treating their child’s ASD symptoms. Improvements in mood, anxiety, stress, and communication topped the list.
Yuval Dar has been part of Dr Adi Aran’s Israeli trials. Citing immediate and “life-changing” results, his mother Abigail described his severe autism prior to whole-plant cannabis as “life in the shadow of hell”. Like so many others, Abigail Dar also strongly believes in the efficacy of whole-plant CBD over isolate, and she has been fundamental in pushing for whole-plant CBD oil in the Israeli trials. (For more info on whole plant vs isolate, see our article here.)
Human trials of CBD oil for autism
Israeli research—published in the prestigious journal of Neurology in 2018—has produced promising results from trials using CBD on children with autism. In a trial of 60 children with untreatable behavioural problems, Dr Adi Aran—a paediatric neurologist—gave the children a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC over a period of several months. Results showed that, with regards to the behavioural issues, 61% of the children were ‘much improved’ or ‘very much improved’. Overall, 80% of the children reported some improvement in behavioural issues that were previously untreatable by conventional pharmaceutical drugs.
Equally promising is that Dr Aran’s research has resulted in a much larger, double-blind trial involving 120-150 children being given the go ahead, with completion and results expected in 2019.
Results of Chilean research published in 2018—sponsored by Zelda Therapeutics—showed an improvement in 67% of 21 children trialing CBD, over several behavioural areas.
Australian doctors—paediatrician Dr Daryl Efron and neurologist Dr Jeremy Freeman—believe there is an urgent need for clinical trials to prove the efficacy of cannabis oil in treating conditions like ASD and ADHD, noting that the pharmaceutical drugs in use cause serious side effects.
“While there are no studies of the toxicity of cannabis in children, neither are there pediatric studies of the toxicity of risperidone and other conventional drugs used in the treatment of autism. However, to the extent that one can extrapolate the adult toxicity profiles of the antipsychotic drug risperidone and cannabis, the latter is the much safer drug.”
Safety of pharmaceutical drugs used to treat ASD
“Psychotropic medications, including stimulants, antidepressants and antipsychotics, are the medications most frequently prescribed by Australian paediatricians. These medications carry a risk of serious adverse effects in children and adolescents in general, and patients with developmental disabilities may be at particularly high risk.”
Struggling parents are equally concerned with the adverse side effects that pharmaceutical drugs have on their children, with 54% of respondents to one survey stating that they believed these drugs “did more harm than good”.
Australian doctors like Daryl Efron and Jeremy Freeman are scathing about the “concerning” prescribing practices of Australian paediatricians, calling it “knee-jerk psychiatry”.
“Current pharmacotherapy in this patient group is characterised by several concerning practices, including polypharmacy, with potential for drug interactions; frequent changes to medication regimens, referred to…as ‘knee‐jerk psychiatry.”
CBD-oil therapy will do no harm
In the words of medical-cannabis proponent and Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Emeritus Lester Grinspoon:
“While this approach may not work for all, it assuredly will do no harm.”