More than 3.5 million Americans are currently living with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Autism Society — and these numbers are rising. Up until recently, Asperger’s Disorder (or Asperger’s Syndrome) and autism were regarded as two different conditions, but, because the two conditions share many characteristics, in 2013 the American Psychiatric Association moved Asperger’s under the diagnosis of autism spectrum to help make diagnosis clearer and easier. For the purpose of this article, Asperger’s Syndrome will be included under “autism spectrum” unless otherwise specified.
Both Asperger’s and autism appear in childhood, but autism is more noticeable and appears much earlier. Asperger’s doesn’t cause delays in language acquisition, cognitive function or adaptive behavior, but autistic children exhibit these delays by age three. Autism spectrum disorder is defined by multiple behaviors, mild to severe, that begin revealing themselves in early childhood, but those with Asperger’s may not notice their condition until adulthood.
Asperger’s disorder and autism are disabilities that cause a person to perceive and process information in a different way compared to the general population. Children and adults with these conditions have deficits in social skills, emotional regulation, and cognitive function — common ways these deficits present themselves include aloofness, detachment from family members or loved ones, and the inability to interpret social cues.
The characteristics of the autism spectrum can be distressing to the point where other mental health issues, like depression, can occur simultaneously — on top of existing behavioral issues like hyperactivity, inattention, aggression, compulsions, and anxiety. In addition, the stigma surrounding these conditions can make everyday life challenge.
To help treat these symptoms, doctors often prescribe medications like psychostimulants, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and SSRIs. But since most people on the autism spectrum require a combination of medications to manage their symptoms, this can lead to other serious wellness issues which then raises questions about safer alternatives for treatment.
If you’re seeking natural treatments for autism spectrum disorders, new research suggests CBD oil may help.
To appreciate how CBD can help manage symptoms of autism and Asperger’s, it helps to understand how the brain function within these conditions. In individuals who have been diagnosed, parts of the brain like the hippocampus and cerebellum struggle to produce enough cannabinoid receptors, called CB1, that are important for properly regulating parts of the brain, such as those linked with emotion and motor skills. When working properly, these receptors also help stimulate brain growth, but, according to a 2017 study, if the body isn’t producing enough of them, development can be inhibited.
In addition, other cannabinoid receptors in the brain, called CB2, may help support those on the autism spectrum. As with CB1 receptors, diagnosed children may be lacking them which in turn reduces immune system function and hinders brain development — and it can also affect the brain’s ability to send signals to other parts of the body. To help produce CB1 and CB2 receptors and promote brain growth and function, cannabidiol (CBD) can be used to activate this production.
The proper dose of CBD oil binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your brain, making it easier for the brain to complete transmissions and properly send signals which research shows could aid in reducing some of the symptoms of Asperger’s or autism.
In fact, a 2012 study in Neuropsychopharmacology showed how adequate function of cannabinoid receptors — activated by CBD — can help manage emotions and motor functions better which could greatly improve adverse behaviors observed in autism and Asperger’s patients. Furthermore, the endocannabinoid system (including the CB1 and CB2 receptors) may play a part in regulating social reactivity, and, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, could also improve autism behavior such as deficiencies in learning and memory processes and circadian rhythm regulation.
Additional Resources – Medical studies as recent as 2018 confirm that CBD can have vast benefits for autism spectrum disorders which includes Asperger’s syndrome. If you want to learn more about CBD’s role in the treatment of their symptoms, it may help to read personal accounts of autism spectrum disorders treated with CBD or follow the work of Dr. Adi Aran, who’s leading the research in autism-CBD connections.
The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.