In 2018, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a condition that affects millions of children and adults around the world, and the diagnosis can have serious, lifelong repercussions for the individuals affected and their loved ones. ASD can take many forms, and medical researchers are still learning new things about the disorder all the time.
One of the most frustrating things about an autism diagnosis is that there’s not a clear cause for ASD—or a treatment plan that works for every patient. In recent years, scientists and those affected by ASD have become increasingly interested in the medical potential of CBD as a treatment to alleviate some common symptoms of autism.
What is Autism?
One of the most challenging things about autism is that the disorder can manifest in so many different ways, at highly varied levels of severity. The Autism Society defines ASD as “a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others.” They also note that “behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities.” The seriousness of these symptoms can differ greatly; some people with ASD experience significant developmental delays and require lifelong support, while others can live independently.
Along with the behaviors listed above, autism is often accompanied by medical issues that can include seizures, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Below, we’ll discuss how CBD may be particularly beneficial in alleviating these associated symptoms of ASD.
While current research indicates that genetics are a key factor in ASD, scientists are unable to pinpoint a specific cause for autism. Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for ASD, as are children born to families who already have a child with autism.
How is Autism Treated?
There’s no cure for autism, but early diagnosis and appropriate interventions focused on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills can significantly improve the prognosis for ASD patients. Speech therapy works to improve communication skills, occupational therapy is valuable for helping patients overcome sensory issues, and physical therapy can improve motor skills to help people with autism become more independent. In recent years, the FDA has also approved new pharmaceuticals to treat the symptoms of autism in children and adolescents; these medications are largely focused on mediating the aggressive and self-harming behaviors common to the disorder.
Additional medical interventions can be used to treat the associated symptoms referenced above—seizures, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. When it comes to these conditions, early research shows that CBD could have benefits for many people living with ASD.
Does CBD Oil Work for Autism?
The connection between CBD and autism spectrum disorder is as complex as the disorder itself—and just like ASD, we’re still learning new things about CBD all the time. Here are a few promising avenues of research that have explored potential links between CBD and the treatment of autism.
In 2018, Israeli researchers conducted a pioneering study that treated 60 autistic children with high-concentration CBD. 80% of parents reported a decrease in problematic behaviors associated with autism, with 62% noting significant improvement. Others reported benefits including better communication and reduced anxiety. Problematic behaviors—including aggression, self-harm, and repetitive compulsions—are among the most challenging symptoms of ASD. This study shows that CBD could be a powerful tool in mitigating those behaviors and improving daily life for people with ASD and their families.
Between 10% and 30% of people with ASD also suffer from epilepsy. After promising early results in several studies, CBD has become the focus of intensive research as a potential seizure treatment, meaning that it may be beneficial for autism patients who also have seizures. Recently, the FDA approved a cannabis-based CBD formulation, Epidiolex, for the treatment of epilepsy.
Like epilepsy, anxiety is often concurrent with ASD, and CBD has been studied extensively as a potential anxiety treatment. A study conducted in 2016 revealed that CBD could alleviate the effects of Chronic Unpredictable Stress. Additional studies have revealed the benefits of CBD for social anxiety. While research on CBD and autism-related anxiety is limited, these more generalized studies suggest that CBD could have benefits for ASD patients.
Finally, many ASD patients suffer from sleep disorders. CBD and closely related cannabinoid compounds like CBN have been the subject of several studies on sleep health. Scientists discovered that cannabinoids can have powerful sedative effects that may aid those with sleep disorders; some studies have even shown that the efficacy of CBN is comparable to prescription sedatives like diazepam.
What’s the Right CBD Dosage for Autism?
If you’re interested in using CBD oil for autism, you might wonder how to determine the right dosage. This is especially true if you’re considering CBD oil for kids with autism. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t entirely straightforward. There’s not enough existing research to pinpoint the perfect dose of CBD for each individual, so finding the right fit can be a matter of trial and error.
Many products—like CBD oil, pills, or gummies—are packaged with recommended dosages; these suggestions can be a great place to start if you’re new to using CBD. Otherwise, it’s best to start with the lowest possible dose and increase slowly as needed. If you’re considering CBD for a child, this weight-based chart may provide a helpful starting point. You should also consult with your physician before beginning a CBD treatment plan.
Over the next decade, an average of 50,000 people with ASD will enter adulthood each year; research suggests that the cost of caring for Americans with autism could reach $461 billion by 2025. These statistics show that the effects of autism reach beyond patients and their families; this complex disorder has the potential to affect all of us as a society. The complexity of autism makes it challenging to study and treat, but CBD could provide a new avenue for research as we discover better ways of coping with ASD in the years ahead.
Due to FDA Regulations, we recommend that you do your own research on CBD products. We also suggest that you read the reviews on our website, where our customers record their real-world results of using our products.