According to the non-profit group Autism Speaks, in 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a study that said approximately 1 out of every 59 children today is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This works out to 1 in every 151 girls and 1 in every 37 boys. For families who are dealing with an ASD diagnosis, no matter how severe, looking for effective ways to help treat and deal with the condition is of the utmost importance. One possible treatment option for ASD in both children and the adults they grow into is CBD oil. Like with any new medical treatment option, there are always a lot of questions, misunderstandings, and unknowns. To help clear some of these things around the relationship between CBD and autism, here are 4 things you need to know about today.
1. It is NOT marijuana
The biggest misconception about CBD oil is that it is the same thing (give or take) as marijuana and, when people consider using it as a treatment for autism in children, they are scared away by the thought of giving marijuana to children. This is just not the case. CBD is a compound extracted from the Cannabis Sativa plant, the same plant that marijuana comes from. The other major compound that can be extracted from that plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive compound found in marijuana that gives people the feeling of being “high” that is associated with marijuana. While very similar in structure and make-up, CBD does not have any of the same psychoactive properties.
The point of this clarification is to say that although related, CBD is not marijuana and should not be thought of as such when considering whether or not to use it in treating autism in children. While there are possible issues you may want to consider with children using CBD (more on that below), the idea that CBD is an illicit drug of some sort should not be one of them.
2. It SEEMS like it works
The biggest thing to know about CBD and the potential for it as an autism treatment is that it does seem like it works very well. There is no cure for autism but as a natural option to treat the symptoms, there is loads of potential. Daily CBD Mag does a great deep-dive on the science behind CBD and why it is so great at treating autism symptoms but the general idea is this; some of the major symptoms of autism, such as stress, dealing with sensory input, and regulating emotions are exactly what CBD is believed to help with.
There have been several smaller studies that have backed up these theories that CBD is an ideal remedy for many symptoms of autism. Two Israeli studies illustrated this perfectly. One, a study
of 53 children with autism researchers found self-injury and rage attacks improved in 67.6% of subjects. Hyperactivity symptoms improved in 68.4%, sleep problems improved in 71.4%, and anxiety improved in 47.1%. The other, a study of 60 autistic children showed similar results with behavioral outbreaks improving in 61% of patients, anxiety and communication problems improving in 39% and 47% respectively, and disruptive behaviors improving by 29%.
3. The verdict is still SOMEWHAT out
Even with these smaller studies yielding very positive results, the fact remains that scientifically conclusive, long-term studies have not yet been finalized to fully prove that this is an effective treatment. And, while early returns are promising, there have been seemingly promising treatments in the past that have not held up to serious scientific scrutiny. In 1998, a study found that the intravenous administration of secretin helped regulate symptoms. In the 2000s, several small, uncontrolled studies found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy did the same. Both these treatments were later debunked by full studies.
The good news is though that researchers around the globe are conducting more and more studies and looking for the answer as quickly as scientifically possible. New studies and clinical trials like the one currently going on through NYU Langone Health are searching for the answers to clear up whether CBD is an effective autism treatment once and for all.
4. There are some POTENTIAL issues
There are a few issues that need to be considered when thinking about allowing young people to use CBD. The first issue is that there is not currently a great set of federal rules and regulations surrounding the ingredients, purity, and quality of CBD oil. While the FDA does have overarching rules and regulations that apply to CBD like any other nutritional supplement, these are not as well defined as they could be. There are a lot of CBD oils on the market that may be more or less potent than advertised or that are produced in a less than ideal way. If you are worried about this issue, you can consult this Giftwits article about the best CBD oils on the market to find some of the best and most reputable brands.
The other issue with CBD oil, especially in children, is just that there are no conclusive studies yet on the long-term side effects when taken by children. While, anecdotally, it does seem totally safe in the short-term, there may be longer-term issues we are just not aware of. There are also some mild side effects like drowsiness and dry mouth. And, there is also a potential that it could react negatively with other forms of medication so caution and consulting a physician is always best.
All families who are dealing with autism are anxious to find the best treatment for the symptoms that come along with it. In the early days of CBD research, as we are in now, it seems like CBD could be the answer. As more studies come out and more trials are done we will find out more. For now, the hope is that this natural, non-addictive compound with minimal side effects could be the treatment that so many are looking for.