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How CBD Can Be Beneficial For People With Autism

When we talk about autism as a condition, we’re really talking about autism spectrum disorder since a couple of similar conditions fall under this umbrella, like Asperger’s syndrome for example. With this in mind, autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder where the patient’s social communication and interaction is impaired, often characterized by repetitive behaviors.

When we talk about autism as a condition, we’re really talking about autism spectrum disorder since a couple of similar conditions fall under this umbrella, like Asperger’s syndrome for example. With this in mind, autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder where the patient’s social communication and interaction is impaired, often characterized by repetitive behaviors.

No known cure for autism exists, only the symptoms are treated with behavioral therapy and prescription drugs that oftentimes cause a number of side-effects. It begins to develop in infancy or childhood, so parents of autistic children know the daily struggles mainly caused by these drugs that not only have a limited effect on the symptoms, but are also not suitable for everyone. This is why a lot of concerned parents turn to CBD oil for help, especially since witnessing its almost miraculous effects on epilepsy in the CNN’s story on Charlotte Figi in 2013.

As the number of autism-affected children grows, 1 in 68 children being affected in the US alone, more parents are interested in using hemp-derived CBD oil as treatment for autism. Since the beneficial effects are not yet confirmed due to lack of long-term human studies, we’ll try to explain why CBD oil can be used as an effective treatment for this spectrum disorder through scientific research and anecdotal evidence.

CBD’s Effect on Autism

As we previously mentioned, autism treatment is in fact treatment of its symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms and related disorders CBD can potentially treat, which generally are the cause for the core symptoms, like a deficiency in social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive behavior.

Anxiety and/or Depression

Anxiety and depressive symptoms are very common in autism patients, especially when it comes to adolescents and adults. CBD is proven to be a natural anxiolytic agent, perfect for treating both anxiety and depression, since generally they go hand in hand, in the following ways:

  • CBD binds to the 5-HT1A receptors of the endocannabinoid system, thus reducing anxiety and weakening acute autonomic response to stress. This way, it acts very similarly as antidepressants, just without any side-effects. It increases the serotonin levels by blocking their reabsorption in the brain, thus inducing feelings of happiness and well-being.
  • CBD reduces anxiety and depression-like behaviors by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis, or growth of new cells in the hippocampal area of the brain, through activation of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.
  • With its anti-inflammatory properties and neuroprotective properties, CBD significantly reduces neuroinflammation, or brain inflammation, which is often connected to many mood disorders, anxiety and depression being some of them, which occurs through CBD’s activation of the TRPV-1 receptor.
  • CBD has prohedonic effect, meaning that it reduces negative thinking and induces positive mindset.

Hyperactivity and attention deficit

Autism and ADHD are closely related since they share the same symptoms like hyperactivity and attention deficit. Both disorders result in deficit in social interaction and communication, difficulty to pay attention and focus, and repetitive behaviors as well.

CBD can be very effective in giving relief from these conditions as it reduces hyperactivity and increases the ability to focus. Individuals with ADD/ADHD usually have increased levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone”, and low levels of dopamine, or the so-called “feel-good hormone”. CBD is known to reduce cortisol and interact with dopamine receptors, while activating serotonin receptors in the brain, thus reducing the effects of ADD/ADHD.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder often overlaps with autism as around 27% of autism patients experience symptoms that are related to this disorder. These symptoms occur in part as a result of an imbalance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which consists of cannabinoids, produced internally by the human body, and our naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors, which can be found throughout the body, but are most common in the brain and the immune system.

Being scattered throughout the brain, the ECS is involved in modulating many of the brain’s functions, like mood for example. Due to this involvement in mood, it’s safe to say that an imbalanced ECS affects mood-related disorders like depression or bipolar disorder.

CBD brings back the lost balance of the ECS and even improves its function by activating certain receptors and boosting the activity of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This way it acts as a mood-stabilizer and antipsychotic alternative with no side-effects whatsoever.

Sleep Disorders

Many autism patients have trouble falling and/or staying asleep, oftentimes as a result of melatonin imbalance. They are often under-slept, due to either having difficulty falling asleep, or constantly waking up in the middle of the night.

CBD’s effect on sleep is highly beneficial, as it is known to regulate the sleep-wake cycle by increasing sleeping time, even though it doesn’t cause sleepiness and keeps you alert during the day. However, when taken in higher doses, it has sedative effects. This happens due to CBD’s biphasic properties, meaning that its effect depends on the dosage. So, when taken in small amounts it promotes alertness and wakefulness, but when taken in larger amounts it acts as a sedative substance by inducing sleepiness; Which is why our CBD syrup has melatonin in it, so that you can get all the sleep-inducing effects you need!

Seizure Disorders

Autism and epilepsy are closely related since up to 30% of autism patients experience seizures during their lifetime. However, medication used for treating seizures not only causes plenty of negative side-effects, but it only treats the seizures while the autistic symptoms remain unchanged.

CBD has beneficial effects in treating both seizures and other autistic symptoms. The best-known case is Charlotte Figi, a girl with a very rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Due to this rare and extreme form of epilepsy, Charlotte had constant seizures very difficult to control by the time she was 2 years old. She even came to a point where she had around 300 uncontrollable seizures a day. Her parents had tried everything, from diets and acupuncture to all kinds of drugs like valium – some of which nearly killed her. After using a CBD Hemp oil, Charlotte’s seizures nearly stopped. She is the youngest patient at the time to have used this product, and its benefits regarding epilepsy are undeniable.

Is CBD Safe for Children?

CBD is completely safe for both children and adults because of the following reasons:

  • It’s not psychoactive, so it doesn’t alter one’s sensations and perceptions.
  • It doesn’t have sedative effects, so it doesn’t cause sleepiness and drowsiness.
  • It’s a non-addictive substance; in fact, it can help in overcoming other addictions.

Anecdotal Evidence

A clinical psychologist from Puerto Rico, Dr. Giovanni Martinez, after doing research about CBD on his own, recommended it to his autistic patient’s parents as an effective treatment. They had nothing to lose, since CBD is completely safe for children, has no side-effects, and one cannot overdose. The boy, called Kalel, had impairment in communication due to being non-verbal all his life. After agreeing to try CBD Oil as treatment, Kalal’s parents were giving him a CBD dose twice a day. To everyone’s surprise, only 2 days after starting with this treatment, Kalal’s voice was heard for the first time by his teachers at school. He began by pronouncing the vowels at first, then the consonants, in the end forming complete words and sentences. By starting to communicate, he became less restless while his overall conduct quickly improved. The boy’s rapid progress only confirms CBD’s positive effect on autism and its related symptoms.

Final Words

Since there’s only anecdotal evidence to rely on, we cannot confirm that CBD is the most effective treatment for autistic symptoms. However, based on scientific literature regarding CBD and some common autistic symptoms, as well as real life examples, CBD’s positive effects are undeniable.

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