Autism (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with cognitive, social, behavioral, and sensory impairments. The onset of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) usually occurs in early childhood, with boys being diagnosed more often than girls. People with autism often engage in repetitive or restricted behavior patterns and activities and have an intense need to adhere to specific routines. These patients may also have increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli and fixated interests. With all the research being done on cannabinoid compounds, the question arises, "Could CBD help with autism and other mental health disorders?".
Endocannabinoids are molecules made by the body endogenously. For example, CB1 receptors are primarily found in the central nervous system or brain, whereas CB2 receptors are typically in the peripheral nervous and immune systems.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in the modulation of various brain processes, so there is a possibility that cannabis phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids) can favorably help with ASD symptoms through the modulation of neurotransmitters. The ECS is active whether a person uses cannabis or not, and it regulates various internal processes such as mood, sleep, metabolism, and immune response. Therefore, CBD and other cannabinoids can have favorable effects on symptoms related to behavioral and cognitive disorders. In addition, CBD has the potential to help other aspects of autism, such as communication deficits, social interactions, hyperactivity, anxiety, and sleep disorders. For example, many autistic children have difficulty making friends, and perhaps CBD helping the mood can positively affect developing and maintaining relationships and friendships. Since CBD can be beneficial for helping to regulate moods, it can promote calm and relaxed behavior. Some scientific studies are underway to see if CBD reduces stress, aggression, self-injurious behaviors, and anxiety surrounding social interactions in autistic children. Therefore, it can be said that phytocannabinoids are emerging as a therapeutic alternative for ASD.
The three types of CBD over the counter include:
- Full-Spectrum which retains all components of the cannabis plant, including THC less than or equal to 0.3%
- Broad-Spectrum has all the features of the cannabis plant except THC
- CBD isolate is pure CBD without other compounds from the cannabis plant.
The most common dosage forms of CBD for autism include oils, tinctures, edibles, and or capsules.
Some recent reports indicate that CBD can aid children with co-occurring seizures. However, the efficacy and safety of CBD for ASD need to be further evaluated with large-scale clinical trials. For the most part, cannabis is well tolerated, safe and effective for symptom relief of autism. Still, there is a wide interpatient variation, so this must be individualized on a trial basis.
CBD may help with aggressive behavior and irritability and possibly reduce behavioral problems. Other therapeutic effects may include a reduction in anxiety and stress. Taking CBD and THC together produces an entourage effect which may be more effective than using either cannabinoid alone. CBD seems to be a safer option for children over medical marijuana since there are only trace amounts of psychoactive THC in full-spectrum products. Remember that CBD is non-psychoactive and should be the preferred option for parents whose children have autism. The bonus is fewer potential side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lightheadedness, drowsiness, hypotension, dry mouth, psychosis, anxiety, and depression.
To find a good quality CBD product, it is essential to check the COA (certificate of analysis), proving that a third-party lab has tested the product. It is good to review the cannabinoid potency to see if it matches the label on the product. Also, check whether the product passes tests for molds, contaminants, and other heavy metals. Look for transparency and buy from brands that are up-front about the sourcing of hemp and how they make their products. It is wise to check the customer reviews and the brand's reputation. Lastly, ensure you are buying actual CBD, not to be confused with hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil comes from hemp seeds and does not typically contain THC or CBD.
In conclusion, more research is needed to verify whether or not CBD is effective for managing symptoms of autism but suffice it to say that early results are promising and if considering a trial run, talk to a healthcare professional for concerns about drug interactions, dosing, and dosage forms. Decide whether the health benefits outweigh the potential side effects.