The use of medicinal cannabis for children and adults on the autistic spectrum is relatively new, but very promising field. Empirical knowledge about which kinds of cannabis work best for autism is in short supply due to the scarcity of clinical trials, medical research, and of course, issues of access in many states, however the anecdotal evidence provided by first-hand accounts of individuals and families successfully employing cannabinoids and cannabis in the treatment of autism provide us with a powerful opportunity to learn more.
“Anecdotal evidence commands much less attention than it once did, yet it is the source of much of our knowledge of synthetic medicines as well as plant derivatives. Controlled experiments were not needed to recognize the therapeutic potential of chloral hydrate, barbiturates, aspirin, curare, insulin, or penicillin.”
Erica Daniels of Philadelphia was desperate to find a treatment for her 12-year-old son Leo’s autism symptoms, and after years of trying different pharmaceuticals with no success, Leo has finally found some relief thanks to a Cannabidiol spray, which she gives to Leo once or twice a day.
She was amazed by the fast and positive reaction Leo had to CBD; the frequency and intensity of his daily tantrums decreased, his anxiety and speech improved, and unlike with pharmaceuticals, there were no side effects. In a December 16, 2017, interview with Philadelphia CBS affiliate KYW Erica credits cannabis for changing their lives:
“I’ve noticed differences in his language, in his mood, in our ability to just be a family,” she says. “The quality of life for him and our whole family has dramatically changed.”
CBD tinctures are consider the best form of taking CBD oil as it works in a much quicker way than others i.e. cookies, cream etc and you gain much more of the potential benefits from each drop. This can be administered vi a dropper or spray.
Dina Dedes, 19, has seen such an improvement since taking cannabis for autism, her mother says she is now helping around the house and enjoying singing. She takes a CBD tincture twice a day. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)
40 % of hemp-derived CBD users with a medical condition find their cannabis products to be extremely effective at relieving their symptoms—compared to 37 % of marijuana-derived CBD-only users and 41 percent of whole plant CBD users.
“Marijuana is a wonderful, safe botanical that allows my son to participate more fully in life without the dangers and sometimes permanent side effects of pharmaceutical drugs,” says Marie Myung-Ok Lee, who in addition to being the mother of a child with severe autism is a novelist, essayist, and professor at Columbia University.
In January 2017, Lee wrote a deeply personal opinion piece for the Washington Post about her path to choosing medical marijuana as a treatment for her son:
Since he was an infant, I’d watched my son struggle. At 18 months, he underwent two major spinal-cord tumor surgeries, only weeks apart, and was immobilized in a cast for a year. After that, the violent rages began — sometimes as many as 300 in a day. We tried all kinds of treatments, including applied behavior analysis (the supposed gold standard in autism therapy), occupational therapy, horse therapy and auditory integration. …. For my son, not every strain of cannabis helped……eventually, we settled on White Russian, a favorite of cancer patients in pain, and we transitioned from cookies to an oil tincture that my son received orally every few hours with a dropper. (That allowed us to titrate the dosage and made it easier for the nurse to administer at school.) It left him clear-eyed and alert, without the constant pain-furrow in his brow or the off-the-wall rages.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Washington Post, January 6, 2017
In a February 27, 2014, article in Cannabis Now, Doug Streitchan wrote about how using the strain Harlequin helps him to deal with his Asperger’s Syndrome:
I am 27-years-old and have Asperger’s Syndrome, a less severe form of Autism. I use high-CBD cannabis in my daily routine because it helps to alleviate the stress and anxiety brought on by Asperger’s, and I feel this medicine is responsible for a profound sense of well-being, not just short term, but long term as well…While high levels of THC aren’t for me, it goes hand in hand to say that high-CBD isn’t for everyone. It depends on diagnosis and/or personal preference. The strain that has worked best for me is a sativa called Harlequin which is testing at 13 percent CBD, 4 percent THC.
Brandy Williams is the Arizona state director of the cannabis advocacy group Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), and a member of cannabis advocacy group MomForceAZ. Her son Logan has been diagnosed with a severe form of autism.
In front of a crowd at a MomForceAZ event in Mesa, AZ in April 2017, Brandy spoke of her son Logan’s life before cannabis. His chronic pain; propensity for self-harm; inability to sleep, eat, or use the bathroom on his own; and the fact that beginning at age three years old he was being prescribed Risperdal, a powerful anti-psychotic. After 6 years of turmoil during which he saw some of Arizona’s finest doctors and received various therapeutic interventions, Logan’s symptoms had not gotten better but worse. That’s when Brandy began to consider medical marijuana, which has proved effective and dramatically improved Logan’s quality of life.
In a November 2017 interview with Arizona Marijuana News Brandy describes how she discovered what cannabis worked best for Logan’s autism symptoms:
How long did it take you to figure out what Logan’s ideal dose of cannabis is?
Brandy: It took about a year to find consistency in potency. … I realized Logan’s sweet spot wasn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s. I learned about each individual component of cannabis and what type of effects each property had and that helped me figure out what I needed to purchase for my son.
We tried high-CBD, low-THC strains and that was not the right option. When our four specific strains are blended together, it’s what helps him the best. The different cannabinoid profiles of the four strains are our biggest benefit. In all, it took a year to find the best outcomes for Logan.
What would you say to other parents of autistic children that want to try cannabis for their children?
Brandy: Be patient. Just because the first product you try doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that cannabis won’t work. You need to find your child’s sweet spot. What works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your loved one.
For more reading on treating Autism with CBD, read Cannabidiol Might Just be the Natural Treatment for Autism You’ve Been Looking For