Autism affects about one in every 68 children in the United States. Around the world, about one percent of the population is affected – or about 700 million people. Many researchers and parents have started to turn to marijuana as a viable way to treat autism. But will it work?
Methods to Treat Autism
Anecdotal evidence is beginning to rapidly stack up in cannabis’ favor. Newsweek recently reported on a child in Israel who suffers from severe autism that caused him to throw wild, out of control tantrums. They subsided once the child started using marijuana.
For those with severe autism such as the child in the Newsweek article, the condition can show itself through self-harming and other violent behavior. There is no known cure. Many children are treated with drugs that others take for depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Marijuana presents new possibilities for ways to treat autism. Research has been slow because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Much of the studies on cannabis treatment for autism have happened in other countries. That, however, is changing.
The potential for treating autism lies in cannabidiols (CBD), the chemical compound in marijuana that doesn’t cause the high feeling (that’s THC). CBD interacts with receptors in the brain, causing relaxation. That could prove significant for those dealing with conditions such as autism or epilepsy.
The late Dr. Bernard Rimland, founder of the Autism Society of America, wrote that if one needed to use drugs to treat autism, perhaps they should turn to marijuana.
Several studies are now underway that may help determine if he was onto something.
The University of California San Diego has received a $4.7 million gift to study whether marijuana has any positive impact on those with autism. It’s believed to be the first such study of its kind in the U.S. Marijuana is legal in California for both medical and recreational use.
The Department of Defense has also given $1.3 million to researchers at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City to study the impact of CBD on alleviating the irritability and repetitive behaviors often associated with autistic children.
Dr. Eric Hollander, who is leading the research, said these behaviors have a hard impact on both the children and their families. He said it is hoped the research will not only find if CBD is effective in managing these symptoms, but also to target “the mechanisms in the brain that cause the behaviors.”
And in Israeli, researchers at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem are evaluating whether a mixture of CBD and THC works better to treat autism and is tolerable for children.
Whatever the research uncovers, it’s good news for parents with children who suffer from autism. Any type of effective way to treat autism would be an improvement. Cannabis just may provide the answer.