April 1st marks the beginning of Autism Awareness Month, and GrowHealthy is proud to acknowledge and help those with autism live healthier lives through medical cannabis.
According to National Today, autism is a complex developmental condition that impacts a person’s ability to “interact, communicate, and progress.” This month-long autism-awareness campaign promotes acceptance for those with autism and encourages people to celebrate differences and be more inclusive. As groups like The Autism Society continue to foster awareness and acceptance for autistic persons, they also emphasize the importance of helping autistic persons live healthy lives with abundant opportunities.
There is currently no cure for autism; however, medication has been shown to help reduce related symptoms. Risperidone is the only FDA-approved drug on the pharmaceutical market that is specific for helping relieve symptoms of irritability in children with autism. But as those who know and love autistic persons, irritability is not the only inhibiting symptom that affects the lives and wellness of those with autism.
As reported in a recent 2021 article in the medical journal Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, studies have shown how cannabis can help alleviate a range of symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Whereas Risperidone only alleviates irritability, Dr. Silva et al. in “Cannabis and Cannabinoid Use in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review” demonstrate how cannabis, mainly cannabis-derived CBD oil, has been shown to help with a range of systems, including “hyperactivity, attacks of self-mutilation and anger, sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, aggressiveness perseverance, and depression.” Moreover, Silva et al. found an improvement in “cognition, sensory sensitivity, attention, social interaction, and language.”
These medical scholars believe the reason for cannabis’s success in alleviating ASD symptoms has to do with the endocannabinoid system: “The endocannabinoid system is a unique biological system that affects a wide range of biological processes, including brain development and functioning.” For persons with autism, adding extra cannabinoids to their system can promote balance since “[e]ndocannabinoids are key modulators of socioemotional responses, cognition, seizure susceptibility, nociception and neuronal plasticity.”
Ultimately, Silva et al. reached the same conclusion as other medical scholars who have studied cannabis and ASD: “Cannabis and cannabinoids have very promising effects in the treatment of autistic symptoms and can be used in the future as an important therapeutic alternative to relieve those symptoms, especially bouts of self-mutilation and anger, hyperactivity, sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, and aggressiveness; as well as improve sensory sensitivity, cognition, attention, social interaction, language, perseverance, and depression.”
However, while these studies are promising, more research is needed to understand the full efficacy of cannabis as a treatment. For instance, there needs to be more research on potency, quantity, frequency, administrative route, duration, and age-minimums. During National Autism Month, GrowHealthy stands by the medical research already conducted and is eager for future research so we all can have even more insight on how medical cannabis can help.
National Today (2022). Autism awareness month – April 2022. National Today. https://nationaltoday.com/autism-awareness-month/
Silva, E., Junior, et al. (2021). Cannabis and cannabinoid use in autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review. Trends in psychiatry and psychotherapy, 10.47626/2237-6089-2020-0149. https://www.scielo.br/j/trends/a/LBmJK6d8bqr5jVK6fp3CHXt/?lang=en
WebMD. (2020). What are the treatments for autism? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/understanding-autism-treatment#:~:text=Risperidone%20(Risperdal)%20is%20the%20only,old%20to%20help%20with%20irritability.