People with autism may experience a range of related symptoms that can make daily life a bit more challenging. As research on CBD has emerged, many people have been curious about how hemp-derived cannabidiol may help ease the discomfort of some of those with autism symptoms.
Of course, each person with autism is unique, and CBD’s addition to their wellness routine may or may not be right for them. That said, as CBD has exploded in popularity, many people want to know what exactly this research may mean for those with autism. We’ll cover the most recent research and everything you’ll want to know about using CBD oil for autism.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is found in higher concentrations in hemp, while tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – another cannabinoid – is found in higher concentrations in marijuana.
THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects most associated with marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, cannot get you high. Many people use it as part of their self-care routine, as it may help them relax, fight daily stressors, or get a better night’s sleep.
Is CBD Legal?
Many people get THC and CBD confused, which leads to a lack of clarity around CBD’s legality. On the federal level, CBD that is derived from hemp is legal, thanks to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Legal hemp and CBD products must contain no more than 0.3% THC – a small amount that will not get users high if ingested. Products with more than 0.3% THC are not legal on the federal level, although state-level laws surrounding THC differ from state to state.
While small amounts of THC are permissible, some companies (like Strength of Hope) choose to create CBD products with absolutely zero THC.
How Does CBD Work?
In order to understand how CBD works, it’s useful to know about the endocannabinoid system, although we are just beginning to understand how the ECS works. This system is believed to be responsible for regulating various physiological functions in the body, which help maintain homeostasis. Some of these functions include pain perception, cognitive function, mood, sleep, appetite, and motor skills.
The endocannabinoid system consists of neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids naturally produced by the body. It also has receptors that interact with these endocannabinoids. These receptors and endocannabinoids are found throughout the body, and communicate with different parts of the body to help it function.
When ingested, CBD affects the endocannabinoid system, although research is still emerging on exactly how cannabinoids and this system interact. It is believed that, while CBD has a low affinity for the receptors in this system, it is still able to influence it through impacting how receptors react with other cannabinoids. In short, researchers believe CBD helps the endocannabinoid system function and further bring it into balance.
CBD Oil for Autism: How it May Help
CBD may be useful in easing some of the symptoms that those on the autism spectrum commonly experience. Preliminary research has shown that CBD may have therapeutic effects that those with autism may find beneficial.
However, research into CBD is still in the early stages, and there hasn’t been extensive research specifically on using CBD oil for autism. The FDA also has not approved CBD as a treatment or cure for diseases (with the exception of Epidiolex for seizures, which we’ll cover below). With all of this in mind, you should talk to your doctor (or your child or loved one’s doctor) about whether CBD could be a beneficial addition to your wellness routine.
Studies on Using CBD for Autism
As of now, there are two recent studies worth noting that have specifically looked at how CBD may be beneficial for those with autism.
A 2018 preliminary study published in Neurology observed how CBD oil helped children with autism. These children were given a dose with a CBD to THC ratio of 20:1. In the study, researchers found the following:
- Behavioral outbreaks were reported as either “much improved” or “very much improved” in 61% of patients.
- Anxiety and communication problems were reported as “much improved” in 39% of patients and “very much improved” in 47% of patients.
- Disruptive behaviors were improved in patients by 29%.
In a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers observed 188 children with autism spectrum disorders who were administered CBD-rich cannabis oil. Most of the participants were given oil with 30% CBD and 1.5% THC, but those with sleep disorders or aggressive behavior were given 30% CBD and 3% THC.
After 6 months, 93 of those patients were assessed, and the following was reported:
- 88.8% reported an improvement in anxiety levels.
- 89.0% reported an improvement in rage attacks.
- 89.8% reported an improvement in restlessness.
- 83.8% reported an improvement in agitation.
- 58.6% reported an improvement in sleep problems.
In addition to these findings, researchers noted that more patients reported a good quality of life, stating: “Good quality of life was reported by 31.3% of patients prior to treatment initiation while at 6 months good quality of life was reported by 66.8%.”
What Do These Studies Tell Us?
These studies show promising results, but it is important to remember that research on CBD and autism is still in the early stages. More studies and clinical trials need to be conducted before definitive statements can be made on CBD effects for people with autism.
Since there is a range of autism spectrum disorders, it should also be noted that the decision to use CBD products should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Those with autism can discuss their options with their doctor to determine whether CBD might be a good fit for their needs.
Autism and Epilepsy: How CBD May Help
According to the American Epilepsy Society, nearly 30% of all people with autism spectrum disorder are affected by epilepsy, which is a neurological condition where the patient experiences recurring seizures. Since such a large population of people with autism experience seizures, it is important to highlight the connection between CBD and seizures.
In the past few years, studies and reviews have emerged looking into CBD’s effects on seizures. For example, in a 2016 study, researchers administered a product with 20 parts CBD and 1 part THC to children with epilepsy. At the end of the study, 89% of the patients reported a reduction in seizure frequency. A 2017 review showed that child patients experienced a decrease in seizures when using a CBD treatment alongside other antiepileptic drugs.
After the promise of these and many other studies, as well as the success of clinical trials, the FDA approved Epidiolex (a CBD-based oral medication) to be prescribed for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. These are two forms of epilepsy that both start in childhood.
When Epidiolex was approved in 2018, it became the first medication in the US to be derived from the cannabis plant, and remains the only CBD-based prescription drug available. In 2020, Epidiolex was approved by the FDA to be prescribed for the treatment of seizures linked to Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.
For those with autism who experience one of these syndromes, Epidiolex may be a useful option. If you or a member of your family deals with seizures, you can talk to a medical professional about using CBD or Epidiolex.
CBD Oil Dosage for Autism
Since there is still very little research on using CBD for autism-related symptoms, there isn’t a clear guide on how much CBD oil should be used. When finding the right CBD oil dosage for autism for you or your loved one, you’ll want to talk to your doctor to determine where you should start. The dosage will depend on the potency of the CBD oil you use, as well as your unique needs.
Where to Buy CBD Oil for Autism
If you and your doctor decide to add CBD oil to your (or your loved one’s) wellness routine, finding a high-quality product from a trustworthy company is important. When looking for the best CBD oil for autism, one of the most pertinent factors to look at is whether a company puts its products through third-party testing.
At Strength of Hope, for example, our CBD Oil Tincture, CBD Mints, and other CBD-based products go through third-party testing to ensure all of our products are safe, pure, and potent. All our products are also 100% THC free, making them a great choice for those who would like a pure CBD experience.
Again, it is essential that you talk to a medical professional if you are considering using CBD for autism. Together, you can decide whether CBD may be a useful tool to add to your routine.