One of the most promising areas of CBD research is looking at its potential positive effects on autism in both children and adults. According to the CDC, about 1% of the world’s population, or 75 million people are somewhere on the autism spectrum. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and many people with autism can lead very normal, productive, fulfilling lives. Others with more severe symptoms may require significant or constant support in their daily lives.
In all cases, however, the quality of life for autistic people would probably be made better if their symptoms were lessened, and if the anxiety and stress that often accompany those symptoms were eliminated. This is where CBD may have a role to play in the treatment of children and adults with autism.
What Is the Hope for CBD?
The hope for CBD autism treatment is that it will help reduce stress levels, lessen aggression, and limit behavior that may lead to self harm. Even with limited scientific studies up to this point, many parents have taken matters into their own hands and attempted to improve their children’s condition using CBD products. Anecdotal evidence has been positive, and the research is beginning to catch up.
In this article we’re going to look into a recent investigation completed in Turkey looking at the effectiveness of CBD 33 adolescent subjects diagnosed with mild-to-severe autism. But before we dive into that study, let’s take a brief look at autism itself.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
According to the Autism Society website, autism is:
A complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.
Depending on the severity and the affected individual, autism can manifest itself in the form of restricted and repetitive behaviors, patterns, activities, or interests. It can also take the form of being nonverbal or having odd speech patterns, difficulty holding a normal back and forth conversation, and trouble making or keeping friends.
Like we mentioned, the severity of symptoms vary widely, with many people able to live perfectly normal lives and others requiring quite a bit of help.
CBD and Autism
Up until now, the primary benefits of giving CBD to adults or children with autism have been to help improve the disorder’s ancillary effects like anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. By potentially eliminating or ameliorating these associated conditions, CBD was thought to reduce or improve some of the most problematic aspects of autism in general. However, neither CBD products or any other substance or drug was thought to be able to remove or cure the underlying symptoms we mentioned in the section above.
The recent study in Turkey may prove the latter assumption wrong, in that CBD might be able to actually improve or change the core behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder.
What the New Study Says
Published in The Journal of Cannabis Research, this Turkish study used a cohort of 33 adolescents who were diagnosed with mild to severe autism. The researchers examined the effect of consuming cannabis extracts containing high levels of CBD and trace amounts of THC over a period of two years. The results they observed were very promising and better than typical results of conventional treatments of autism.
Here is what the study had to say:
“[The] main improvements of the treatment were as follows: a decrease in behavioral problems was reported in 10 patients (32.2 percent), an increase in expressive language was reported in 7 patients (22.5 percent), improved cognition was reported in 4 patients (12.9 percent), an increase in social interaction was reported in 3 patients (9.6 percent), and a decrease in stereotypes was reported in 1 patient (3.2 percent). The parents reported improvement in cognition in patients who adhered to CBD-enriched cannabis treatment for over two years.”
The authors of the study concluded that CBD seemed to be promising in managing the common behavioral problems associated with autism. This is not to say that CBD is a “cure” for the underlying causes of autism, which are still only poorly understood. However, the evidence does seem to point to the fact that CBD products may be a crucial part of an overall treatment plan, which could also include therapy and other intervention treatment programs.
What Other Research Says about CBD and Autism Treatment
The study in Turkey is just the latest of several that have looked into autism and CBD:
- A study in 2018 found that CBD may be effective at treating symptoms of autism in children, but concluded that its efficacy and safety should be furthered examined in large scale clinical trials.
- A study in 2019 of 188 autistic people determined that high quality cannabis products were well tolerated, safe, and effective for relieving symptoms of autism.
- A 2020 study investigated the potential therapeutic role of CBD in mental health, including as a treatment for autism. The study described CBD and CBD-containing compounds as helpful in alleviating symptoms.
- In 2021, a team of Brazilian researchers looked at nine clinical trials evaluating the use of cannabinoids in autism patients and concluded that, “Cannabis and cannabinoids have very promising effects in the treatment of autistic symptoms and can be used in the future as an important therapeutic alternative.”
Taken with the most recent study completed in Turkey, what all this research suggests is that CBD can produce positive effects for autistic people and that it is typically safe and well tolerated by most individuals. Like with many CBD topics, more comprehensive research is required before we can make definitive claims. But what these encouraging studies show is that further research is 100% warranted and worth it.
Are There Risks to Consuming CBD for Autism?
All the studies we cited suggest that CBD is safe to administer to autism patients, even children in the majority of cases. As long as you are using products from reputable companies that have been third party tested for quality and cannabinoid levels, then you should not expect any serious or long term negative side effects.
With that said, there are some reported side effects in very few cases, although those are typically related to the dosage consumed. These potential side effects may include things like:
- Dry mouth
As we always say at Urban Roots, the best way to avoid even these mild side effects is to start with a low dose and slowly bump it up as you see how your body reacts to it. All of our bodies and conditions are unique, so it’s important to listen to yours and see what works for you. For most autism patients, including children, the potential benefits of CBD far outweigh the possible mild side effects.
Conclusion: How Can You Use CBD for Autism Treatment?
When using CBD to treat any condition, we strongly suggest you first speak with your doctor to tell them about your condition and any other drugs or supplements you or your child may be taking. If you are nervous about discussing CBD with your doctor, we cover how to broach the subject in this article of ours.
If you have any other questions about CBD in general or our products and how they benefit you, then please do not hesitate to reach out to our team!