Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 1 percent of children around the world. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 59 children has been identified as having ASD. The syndrome is defined by a wide range of symptoms, but is generally characterized by difficulties with social-interaction, speech and language barriers, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.

The cause of autism is not currently known, though research suggests that the disorder may develop from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. The symptoms usually appear when the child is around 18 to 36 months, though some children may show signs at birth while others may not show symptoms until they start school.

How is autism treated?

ASD currently has no cure, and treatment is generally focused on symptom management. Each individual is unique — as is his or her treatment plan — however the most common approach usually combines behavioral and therapeutic treatment with medications that are approved for depression, anxiety or ADHD. Unfortunately, these drugs may cause their own set of side effects, including obsessive behaviors, poor sleep, and weight gain. And for many children with severe autism, the drugs help for just a few hours; after they wear off the symptoms return, sometimes with greater severity.

CBD has had a significantly calming effect, reducing anxietyand hyperactivity.

The volume of positive anecdotal information has raised interest among researchers, leading to the launch of two clinical trials testing the effect of CBD on children with moderate to severe autism.

CBD Shows Promise For Treating Autism Symptoms

While the search for a cure is ongoing, parents often struggle to help their children with ASD lead happier and more productive lives. Some of these parents, as well as physicians and researchers, are finding new hope in the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, for managing the symptoms of autism.

CBD is a cannabinoid molecule produced by cannabis. Unlike THC, which is the most common cannabinoid, CBD is non-intoxicating. It also has significant pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties, which offer a wide range of possible medicinal applications.

CBD interacts with the brain indirectly, during a process called modulation. This process helps individuals relax and alleviates anxiety. CBD has been used successfully to treat certain types of epilepsy, which has led some researchers to believe that it may be an option for treating the symptoms of autism. CBD is usually administered to children in oil form, either as spray or mixed with food.

While there is no formal research available that measures the effect of CBD on ASD symptoms, there is considerable anecdotal evidence, offered by both parents and physicians, who have observed a meaningful and positive change in the behavior and quality of life of autistic children who are being treated with CBD.

In certain instances, CBD has had a significantly calming effect, reducing anxiety and hyperactivity. Some children begin making eye contact for the first time; others stop hurting themselves or lose the weight they gained by being on other medicines; still others are able to attend school for the first time.

The Launch of New Clinical Trials

The volume of positive anecdotal information has raised interest among researchers, leading to the launch of two clinical trials testing the effect of CBD on children with moderate to severe autism.

Dr. Adi Aran, who directs the pediatric neurology unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital, started the world’s first open-label study on the use of cannabis for pediatric autism in December 2015. The study does not conclude till 2019, and Aran is cautious about making any premature conclusions, but he has stated in several interviews that some of the children in his study have shown significant improvements.

In April 2018, the University of California San Diego announced plans to conduct formal research on whether CBD therapy can help ease symptoms in children with severe forms of ASD. Using a $4.7 million gift, the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) will carry out a clinical trial on 30 children between the ages of 8 and 12, all of whom have a diagnosis of moderate to severe ASD.

These studies will help document the benefits of using CBD on children, as well as help determine whether there are risks to exposing young brains to CBD. The trials will also be used to develop dosage and strength guidelines so that CBD can be used safely.

Meanwhile, many parents with children suffering from severe ASD are not waiting for the research results. Instead, with little or nothing to lose, they are forging ahead and giving their children CBD, often with life-changing results.

 


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