Autism refers to a “broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” People with autism may also struggle with sensory issues and have negative reactions to sights, sounds and other sensations. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Associations created the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to include multiple disorders and syndromes. Medical issues can include gastrointestinal disorders, seizures and sleep disorders according to Autism Speaks. 1 in 59 children are somewhere on the spectrum and begin to show signs between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. There is no definitive set of characteristics or behaviors that define someone with autism. There is varying severity, challenges and strengths associated with each individual. Every person must be looked at for their unique traits and areas of struggle must be addressed singly.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid compound found in the highest concentrations within the hemp plant. It isn’t psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t cause a “high.” In therapeutic doses, it doesn’t cause adverse side effects. These are two main reasons CBD is a popular choice in treating children. CBD fuels the physiological system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for homeostasis, or internal balance. The ECS regulates and stabilizes functions like mood, sleep, pain, inflammation and immune responses, to name a few.
Israeli researchers released an article in the journal Neurology, which shows major improvements in children with autism that did not respond to conventional treatments. These children were treated with CBD and 80% of parents reported decrease in problematic behaviors. Out of the 80%, 62% of parents saw significant improvement in their child’s behavior. 50% of the children experienced improved communication ability.
CBD is shown to successfully help people suffering with gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s, colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Due to it’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties, CBD works to reduce swelling and irritation throughout the body, including the digestive system. Inflammation is an immune system response to injury or infection. CBD helps to regulate an overactive response to reduce swelling and prevent chronic inflammation. Additionally, cannabidiol blocks the release of histamines and can relieve gastric issues due to allergic reactions. As a strong anti-microbial, CBD fights off viral, bacterial and fungal infections. All of these pathogen sources can contribute to gastrointestinal issues.
According to the journal, Pediatric Research, people with autism also have a higher rate of having epilepsy and seizures. CBD works to block the receptors for a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate is a primary excitatory neuron and can be attributed to epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures occur when there is excessive electrical activity within the neuron networks of the brain. By minimizing the reception of glutamate, the risk of seizures is also reduced.
Insomnia is another issue faced by those with autism. Cannabidiol provides the ECS with the necessary cannabinoid boost to regulate sleep patterns and obtain quality rest. CBD promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, helping one to fall asleep. In small doses, it promotes energy in the day and reduces the need to naps. This is helpful for maintaining a normal sleep schedule. CBD shows effectiveness in treating REM abnormalities, which improves sleep quality and reduces the risk of injury from physically reacting to dreams.