Cannabis And Autism

By Brittany Morgan Williams

Cannabis has often been celebrated for its positive effects in regards to epilepsy, cancer, Parkinson’s, and now autism. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that 1.5% of the children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism as of 2014, so this is a prevalent issue. Autism is a neurological disorder with symptoms that present themselves through awkward social interactions, potential self-harm, and difficulty communicating with others, even those closest to them. Imagine living in a world where every interaction confuses or stresses you out. A strain was created by Kushman Genetics to alleviate the symptoms of autism, Joey’s Strain. The mother of Joey founded The Unconventional Foundation for Autism after discovering marijuana was the only medicine that could help her son.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough studies to support how cannabis can help those with autism, so doctors veer from prescribing or recommending it. This makes it much harder, sometimes next to impossible, for autistic people to access what may help them relate to the world. Funnily enough, the 562 studies on cannabis (although none specifically in relation to autism) are much higher than the majority of FDA approved drugs. If a medicine works for a child or adult with autism, they should be able to access and utilize it. This is the thought behind numerous Facebook pages and websites supporting the acceptance of marijuana as a medicine rather than a harmful drug. These sites demonstrate that many doctors support marijuana as an alternative medicine, provide articles with new findings and new laws regarding legalization, and some even have doctors and nurses at the ready to answer questions regarding cannabis and various diseases, illnesses, and brain issues. The issues with the imprecise way marijuana is created and consumed, though, makes it hard to figure out dosage and what will work for each person.

Currently, therapies are used more often than medicines to help autistic people function in the world. There are only two drugs that are approved by the DEA that have been proven to help autism: Risperidone and Aripiprazole, both of which can cause some terrible side effects and even an early demise.

In 2013, several studies were conducted by doctors such as Dr. Dario Siniscalco and Dr. Csaba Foldy that discovered that certain properties in marijuana have been shown to alleviate the anger, anxiety, and tantrums that are often associated with autism. Drs. Olivier Manzoni and Daniele Piomelli discovered the potential of an endocannabinoid named anandamide that helps some with autism with social behaviors. Piomelli does agree that the amount of the dosage is hard to measure, so one should start with a low dose. He points out that “though the intent is to enhance social behavior, one may end up actually having the opposite effect” depending on the different compositions of the strains. CBD oil is another effective element found in cannabis as well as the synthetic marijuana Marinol. Author and Brown University teacher Marie Myung Ok Lee conducted her own minor experiment on her severely autistic son by treating him with Marinol and then an edible form of weed. It’s reported that he went from banging his head against the wall to riding a bike, like any other child his age should.