What is Autism?
Known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, Autism defines a wide range of complex disorders of the brain. The symptoms include difficulty to interact socially, issues with physical and verbal communication and repetitive behavioural patterns.
ASD is also known as classical ASD and it is considered to be the most severe version of the condition. Other types include Asperger’s Syndrome and development disorders among others. At least 1 in 88 children under the age of 8 develop this condition.
Most children who are autistic have trouble interacting with people normally and it’s not uncommon for them to have no empathy. This also includes abusive behaviour such as rocking themselves, head banging, biting etc.
Some of the earliest indications of autism include a failure to respond to their name being called, poor or no eye contact, no verbal interaction by age 1, lining up objects obsessively and lack of social responses. As they grow, these symptoms prevent these children from making friends and initiating conversations and they also obsess over sticking to routines. All of these work to alienate the child from others, which leads to a lack of self-development.
The causes of this condition are unknown but most medical professionals believe that it may manifest from genetic and environmental factors. Most children or infants who are autistic show abnormal neurotransmitter levels which points to disruptions in normal brain development. Defects in genes can prevent normal cell growth in the brain which can lead to this condition.
Current treatments for ASD
There is no cure for ASD since scientists are still unsure regarding how it manifests in some children and miss others completely. Current treatments focus on training interventions which target skills and which can teach autistic children how to socialize. Many are also supplemented with medication for anxiety and depression to make the treatments work.
The thing is no two autistic children are the same. While one might show minor social issues, another might alienate himself/herself completely. Children who have severe ASD cannot communicate verbally at all and may try to do so through loud shrieks and hand flapping that can be disruptive to others around them.
Parent led therapy sessions and verbal behavioural therapy have shown positive results but as autistic children grow older, they need to undergo motor development skills and communication skills that can help them socialize as they mature.
What is sad is that there are very few medically proven treatments that exist for this condition and there are only 2 drugs that treat it (Risperidone and Aripiprazole). However, those drugs do nothing but treat mood swings that autism causes and there is no medication that can treat social issues, repetitive behaviour and communication issues.
These drugs calm down autistic children and prevent them from hurting themselves but they can also cause other conditions down the line. These include diabetes, heart issues, movement disorders, weight gain among others.
How cannabis can help
A link has been discovered between autism and cannabinoid 2 receptors in the brain within the endocannabinoid system. It has been discovered that certain cell mutations in the brain that can result in autism block molecule action that act on those receptors. This supports the theory that this condition can be caused when the brain’s ability to produce clear signals is disrupted.
This revelation also raises the possibility that the cannabinoids that are found in cannabis can restore communication that can allow cells to generate in a healthy environment. Boosting cannabinoids in the brain can correct behavioural issues this way. These issues are related to the delicate x syndrome which is the common cause of autism.
The story of autistic children who benefit from cannabis is quite similar to those who suffer from epilepsy and its seizures. The Charlotte’s Web marijuana strain for instance is known for treating both conditions without resulting in adverse side effects. Children who used cannabis regularly show a marked improvement in their symptoms. The drug can reduce anxiety, aggression, self-injurious behaviour and tantrums which can otherwise lead to injuries and social ostracism.
Some of the strains that are known for treating this condition include:
Blue Dream – This cannabis strain contains sativa more than indica and it is widely known as the marijuana aspirin for autism. The strain can reduce pain, discomfort and other symptoms of this condition.
Green Crack – Green Crack has strong therapeutic benefits when it comes to autism because when it is ingested, it relaxes the muscles and the mind. It is preferred by parents of autistic children because it does not result in the crash that other cannabis strains can result in. The fade-away is gentle and the high is not strong enough to cause problems. Green Crack also allows users to become more focuses, something that autistic children lack completely. They feel happy, euphoric and uplifted which prevents tantrums as well.
Charlotte’s Web – As mentioned before, Charlotte’s Web is a strong cannabis strain that is known for treating various symptoms of autism. This strong sativa strain provides therapeutic benefits without the high and it is known as an effective cure-all for the condition. However, it might not work for some as well as it might work for others.
Before starting autistic children on cannabis, make sure that you consult with a physician who is progressive enough to make you understand the risks and benefits fairly. Connect with other families who have children with autism and ask them which strains you should use. However, be warned that no 2 autistic children are alike so what might work for one might trigger adverse conditions in another.
To determine which strain is ideal for your child, the physician may recommend diagnostic tests and blood work to help you manage drug interactions and weans. Medical cannabis may seem like a miracle cure, but like any other treatment, it should be taken with care.
Next Article: The Benefits of Medical Marijuana