A lot of parents have already become witnesses to the calming effects that CBD (cannabidiol) has on children with autism, but many members of the mainstream medical community remain skeptical about marijuana’s safety and effectiveness in treating autistic children.
Politicians are also divided on this matter. Last year the governor of Colorado rejected a bill that would have made autism as a viable condition for medical cannabis treatment.
The benefits of marijuana based on medical studies have become more widely known thanks to research and modern medicine. Now it is being said that this plant might be a potential miracle treatment for children with autism.
In the U.S., 1 out of every 68 children born will be on the spectrum. Approximately one percent of the world’s population is affected by autism, which means the condition affects more than 700 million people.
What does science have to say about all of this? Well, just like many of the conditions that have been treated with medical marijuana, personal experience along with anecdotal evidence seems to be way ahead of any scientific-based research on the subject.
It also doesn’t help that many of the headlines being generated by mainstream media news outlets reek of sensationalism.
How exactly can one expect to have positive thoughts of cannabis being used as a treatment method for autism when you have headlines that describe parents of children with autism as “desperate” just because they want to try a different approach.
Marijuana and Autism
Autism is often diagnosed during early childhood and has no known cure. This neurodevelopmental condition is further complicated by factors that include parental age, genetic mutations, and environmental factors.
Symptoms of autism include compulsive and repetitive behavior, impaired social skills, and a lack of communication skills. The compulsive behavior of autistic individuals may sometimes be self-injurious.
Many who suffer from this condition display a wide array of symptoms ranging from awkward social interactions, a lack of eye contact and sudden violent outbursts. However, this seems to be changing progressively as there are reports of a mother whose autistic son’s behavior changed drastically for the better after feeding him cannabis-infused edibles.
Treatment for Autism
Treating autism is usually done through a combination of animal-assisted therapy, anger management behavior therapy, and sensory processing. However, autism’s three main characteristics (social challenges, repetitive and self-harming behavior, and difficulty communicating) do not have any pharmaceuticals that address them specifically.
Two drugs have been approved by the FDA that are said to be effective in alleviating autism-related irritability. These two drugs are aripiprazole and antipsychotics risperidone. As effective as these drugs are, they are both full of side effects such as constipation, weight gain, and vomiting.
Irritability doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of autism’s symptoms. People who are on the spectrum sometimes have to deal with other symptoms like gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, sleep disorders, and mood disorders.
All of these are conditions that allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients assuming they are in a legal state.
The Movement to Legalize Cannabis for Autistic Kids
Some parents of children on the spectrum have even started their own movement that would legalize the use of cannabis extracts for treating autism. The movement is called Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism, or MAMMA for short.
The primary goal of this group is to help parents all over the United States get legal access to cannabis extracts for their children. They do this by going on a nationwide campaign to rewrite state legislation.
MAMMA is a part of an ongoing wave of support pushing for cannabis oil that is high in CBD to be given to children on the spectrum.
Parents who have used cannabis oil as a treatment option claim that it is helpful in regulating the emotions of their kids while also allowing them to manage the symptoms of co-occurring conditions like epilepsy. It also helps them sleep better, too.
However, one of the biggest drawbacks to giving CBD oil to children is how it sometimes causes Child Protective Services to become involved. They go as far as scaring the parents with threats, even in states where cannabis has already been made legal.
These kinds of stories have made groups like MAMMA even more determined than ever to continue pushing for protective legislation of cannabis for kids with autism.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
There is some good news to be had from all of this as a bill that allows individuals with autism to have access to medical marijuana was recently cleared.
The bill is being sponsored by Colorado Representatives Kim Ransom (Littleton Republican) and Edie Hooton (Boulder Democrat). If approved, the bill would finally see autism as one of the conditions added to the list of various ailments that qualify for medical cannabis treatment.
It is a small step, but it’s one in the right direction. If all goes well, children who are on the spectrum will have some hope for a brighter future thanks to medical cannabis.