Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental and neurological disorder. Autism is a neurodivergence that primarily affects the synapses and connections between brain cells that help with communication, sensory processing and learning. While it is not unusual for one to discover they’re autistic at any age, many find out between ages two and four. And in recent years, more people have been diagnosed with ASD.

In 2021, approximately 1 in 44 children were diagnosed with autism in the United States. In the UK, autism has increased between 1998 and 2018. There are also many resources to help autistic individuals, such as occupational therapy, pharmaceuticals and community support organizations like AWN.

Historically, autistic folks received medications like anticonvulsants and anti-psychotics, major drugs which often have harsh side effects. Although not approved by the FDA, here’s how cannabis can significantly help autism.

In what ways can CBD help with autism?

Autism presents across a spectrum of neurological differences, and no two autistic people are the same. Some of the most common struggles for autistic people include depression, anxiety, sensory processing and social communication.

With the major groundwork done in cannabis research for medicinal use, those with autism are starting to go the CBD route to help. Recent neurological studies found that autistic people using CBD experience benefits like improved sleep disorders, seizures, and communication. While cannabis is still not approved by the FDA for medical usage, CBD and THC products can help autistic people by calming the nervous system and helping ease sensory triggers.

What are the side effects for ASD cannabis users?

The therapeutic benefit of CBD has grown over the past few years. For autism, recent data shows how CBD use decreased behavioural problems, increased expressive language, and improved cognitive development. However, like any other medication, using CBD or THC for medical purposes shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Depending on the individual, CBD could have an adverse effect and worsen behavioural symptoms if not taken correctly. Janna Champagne, a registered nurser for Cannabis Nurses Network, suggests always taking precautions when starting CBD usage for autism. While there may be little to no side effects when using CBD, monitoring the dosage is crucial. “CBD has considerable therapeutic potential as an intervention for Autism and related immune disorders, but I recommend taking special consideration of the patient’s detoxification status before starting CBD supplementation,” says Champagne. “This helps prevent a severe die-off reaction and decreases the risk of an adverse event that may discourage the use of CBD.”

Why would people with ASD prefer CBD as opposed to other medications?

As the health and wellness industry shows continued growth, so has holistic health and healing. Caregivers and therapists are now working together, searching for new ways, and have seen improvements in behaviour and activity when CBD is part of the ASD care plan. While there is substantial research on using CBD for mental and behavioural issues, another thing to consider is the bulk of research is conducted on adults and not children. Therefore, it’s not recommended to issue CBD to children without speaking to a doctor or health care professional.

There are pros and cons to both sides. But, ultimately, it’s wise to do your due diligence and research the positive and negative effects. CBD or THC is not for everyone, but recent data shows the possibilities as a huge support tool for autistic people.

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