The scope and scale of CBD’s potential uses is undeniably vast. Thanks to a confluence of public desire for non-addictive wellness solutions, the success of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, and some undeniably massive marketing efforts, CBD has gone seemingly overnight from being one of THC’s minor sidekicks to starring as its own headline attraction.
As part of this non-psychoactive cannabinoid’s journey from afterthought to starring role, we now find ourselves in what could be considered a golden age of research. What else can you call it when esteemed educational institutions like UCLA are supporting departments devoted to the study of cannabis medicine? Far from the restrictive “heights” of prohibition-guided policy, the opportunity to understand all we can about CBD finally feels at hand.
While many researchers are understandably focused on pinpointing CBD’s promise in treating common ailments such as insomnia and pain, a significant amount of work has also been devoted to studying the possible benefits of CBD in treating children with autistic spectrum disorder. The reason this specific area has drawn so much attention is partially due to the scale of the issue.
COST OF CARE GROWING ASTRONOMICAL
Per the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1 of every 44 kids in the U.S. currently has an autistic spectrum disorder. With related symptoms ranging from depression and anxiety to chronic sleep issues, ADHD, epilepsy, and schizophrenia, the costs associated with caring for a child with autism can be, tragically, downright astronomical. The average annual cost for such care can quickly add up, often exceeding $60,000 when factoring in the need for special services, lost work hours, etc.
In 2015 alone, Americans spent $268 billion on care for individuals with autism. By 2025, that figure is projected to rise to $461 billion. With an urgent need for safe, effective medications that aren’t saddled by debilitating side effects, the prospect of CBD as a key tool in the treatment of pediatric autistic spectrum disorder continues to grow brighter by the day.
CBD EMERGING AS VIABLE AUTISM TREATMENT
The most recent example involves a study from Istanbul, Turkey that was released in December 2021. Consisting of 23 adolescent participants with “mild to severe” autism, the study split the group into nine distinct clinical trials. The majority (five) were given “plant-derived oil extracts,” while two other groups were provided instead solely with CBD. In addition, another group received CBDV (cannabidivarin), and the ninth was given oral THC (in the form of dronabinol).
In their published findings, the authors concluded that “using lower doses of CBD and trace THC seems to be promising in managing behavioral problems associated with autism.”
Specifically, at the conclusion of the study, patients were observed to display “a decrease in behavioral problems” (32.2%), an “increase in expressive language” (22.5%), “improved cognition” (12.9%), an “increase in social interaction” (9.6%), and a “decrease in stereotypes” (3.2%). The parents of patients participating in the study also reported their children displaying improved cognition after adhering to a “CBD-enriched cannabis treatment” for at least two years. And again, this study is but the latest example of what’s becoming an unignorable wave of solid scientific evidence favoring CBD’s viability in benefitting those with autistic spectrum disorder.
RECENT STUDY BUILDS ON PAST POSITIVE FINDINGS
For example, back in 2019, a study out of Israel noted “sharp improvement” in the lives of autistic children treated with cannabis oil. In a joint effort of Israel’s Ben Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, researchers measured significant positive progress in patients across categories like “quality of life, ability to dress and shower independently” after six months of treatment.
According to researchers, most patients in the study were treated with a cannabis oil dosed to contain 30% CBD and 1.5% THC. The results were extremely promising, with more than 80% of patients’ parents reporting “significant or moderate improvement” in their children as a result of treatment.
Titled “Real Life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy,” the study involved analyzing data from a treatment center on 188 teens diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder between 2015 and 2017. The goal? To look for changes in “quality of life, mood and ability to perform daily tasks” both before and after treatment.
Again, the results were significantly exciting, with the joint study suggesting CBD may potentially serve as an effective treatment “for a variety of autism-related symptoms, including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks” in patients under the age of 18.
With so many studies publishing promising findings on this topic, it would appear the conversation regarding CBD and autistic spectrum disorder has only just begun.