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Autism and the endocannabinoid system - how does it work?

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has tripled worldwide in the last 30 years. There is now undeniable evidence that endocannabinoid system (ES) disharmony is involved and that some people with PAS have reduced ES function.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that divides opinions. A universal term to describe similar atypical behavioral traits, for example, they are limited interests, repetitive behaviors, and difficulty interacting with others.


The term spectrum is used to describe the varying severity of autism - from functioning well on the one hand to non-verbal and severely mentally impaired on the other. However, this relatively linear definition of PAS does not cover the unique combinations of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms that many people with autism experience.

Perhaps this is why the hemp plant, itself complex in its composition, is reported to not only improve many behavioral disorders associated with PAS but also alleviate some associated comorbid conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, sleep disorders, or epilepsy.

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What is autism and where did it come from?

The term autism, taken from the Greek word "auta" meaning self, was first used in the 1940s to describe children with the behavioral traits we now refer to as PAS.

Little is known about why PAS develops. Genetics may be a factor, as well as having children later in life. A possible link between exposure to heavy metals during pregnancy has also been suggested. In some cases, children begin to show signs of PAS around age two, leading to unproven theories that childhood vaccines may play a role.

Whatever the cause, parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of coping with an evolving set of behavioral traits and physical symptoms, often with little support and information from doctors.

If their child is on the more serious end of the spectrum exhibiting self-harm or aggression toward themselves or others, doctors often prescribe prescription medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, or sedatives to prevent violent outbursts.

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Endocannabinoid system and autism

In a 2019 review paper titled "Linking the Endocannabinoid System to Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Review and Potential for Therapy", researchers stated, "New evidence strongly implicates the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of several neuropsychiatric disorders and PAS. Moreover, findings from the literature suggest that CBD may alleviate many conditions co-occurring with PAS, such as seizures, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety and depression, attention deficit disorder, and sleep problems. "

Parents confirm it. In 2019, Israeli researchers surveyed parents of 53 children and teens aged 4 to 22 who had received oral CBD oil drops for an average of 66 days. Self-harm and anger improved by almost 68%, hyperactivity improved by 68%, 71% slept better and 47% had less anxiety. In some cases, symptoms worsened: for example, 24% seemed more anxious. Otherwise, the results were mostly positive. Slight changes in appetite and feelings of drowsiness were reported as adverse side effects for some.

Another study published in Nature in 2019 analysed data from 188 children with PAS who were treated with technical hemp - mostly CBD-rich hemp oil - from 2015 to 2017. After six months of treatment, just under a third of the participants reported significant improvement, and more than half reported moderate improvement on a quality-of-life questionnaire that measured mood and ability to function independently.

Of course, more research is needed to provide more specific recommendations, but even so, cannabis is worth a conversation with a practitioner who is well versed in CBD and hemp therapies. In some cases, there can be remarkable improvements in children with very small doses, says Dr. B. Goldstein, author of "Cannabis is Medicine" and director of Canna-Centers, a California medical practice dedicated to educating patients about the use of cannabis for serious and chronic health problems.

(link to book): https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/bonni-goldstein-md/cannabis-is-medicine/9780316500814/?utm_expid=.OyywKgKNQfKo0ZgN1WBZtg.0&utm_referrer=

"I had a patient, a little boy who came in with autism," Goldstein says, "and the parents were desperate. So they tried a little-and I mean a really small dose of CBD-before they came to my office, and they told me that after a week on such a low dose, the teacher had already noticed that the child was doing better. The teacher didn't know the boy was taking CBD oil. But one day the boy's mother stopped the boy after school and asked, "Okay, what's wrong? What's different? ' Even at this small dose, about 4 or 5 milligrams, they saw this incredible benefit in this child."

On the other hand, Dr. Goldstein also sees patients who require much higher doses, and no one can really say why, because CBD works at the cellular level and is not easy to measure. "You can't tell exactly what will work for someone based on their weight or disease state." You won't know until you try it and see," she says.


Excerpted from "The Essential Guide to CBD" by the editors of Reader's Digest & Project CBD. Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.

References

  • Dana Barchel et al, "Oral Cannabidiol Use in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Treat Associated Symptoms and Comorbidities," Frontiers in Pharmacology 9 (January 9, 2019): 1521.
  • Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider et al, "Real Life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy", Nature.com (17 January 2019).
  • Cannabis discussion "New developments in cannabis medicine with Bonni Goldstein ", CBD Project(9 March 2020).
  • Stephen Schultz and Dario Siniscalco, "Linking the endocannabinoid system to autism spectrum disorders: A review with potential therapeutic applications," AIMSMolecular Science 6, no. 1 (May 13, 2019): 27-37.

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