Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders with symptoms like trouble communicating and getting along with other people and limited or repetitive movements. In some cases, it may also be linked to problems with the way the brain works in general. ASD can be diagnosed at any age, but it is called a “developmental disorder” because most of the symptoms show up in the first two years of life. Autism is called a “spectrum disorder” because its symptoms can be as mild as irritability or as severe as paralysis.
In the past few years, a growing number of human studies and case reports have shown that different cannabinoid formulations make ASD patients feel better.
A study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology found that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who used cannabis flowers and extracts had less trouble with their symptoms.
Researchers from Imperial College in London tested the safety and effectiveness of cannabis products on a group of autistic adults with an average age of 32 who were part of the UK Medical Cannabis Registry. In the study, people either inhaled cannabis flowers or put extracts under their tongues for up to six months. The people in the study mostly ate cannabis preparations that had more THC and less CBD.
In line with what was found in previous studies, researchers found that cannabis therapy helped patients’ symptoms. They also stopped taking many prescription drugs. In particular, “the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines and neuroleptics given at the same time dropped by 33.3% and 25.0%, respectively, in this cohort.” The authors also said that cannabis preparations were “well tolerated” by more than 80% of the people who took part.
“In this first published experience of clinical outcomes in adult patients with ASD treated with CBMPs [cannabis-based medicinal products], there were improvements in general health-related quality of life as well as sleep- and anxiety-specific outcomes,” they said. “There was also a drop in the number of medications that were given at the same time, some of which can cause serious side effects with long-term use.” These results… give a scientific reason for more testing in the form of randomized controlled trials, as well as suggestions for clinical practice in the meantime.”
In a number of clinical trials, CBD extracts made from plants have been shown to help autistic children. Autism Parenting Magazine published survey results in 2021 that said 22% of caregivers or parents in the US had given CBD to an autistic child.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to say for certain if cannabis is an effective treatment option for autism. However, the studies that have been done so far show promise. If you or someone you know is struggling with autism, it may be worth considering trying medical cannabis. Our team of doctors would be more than happy to chat with you about whether or not this could be the right choice for you or your loved one. Contact us today to get started!