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Case Studies: Is using CBD Oil to treat Autism the answer?


In an effort to advance it seems science sometimes looks to areas that make the general public choleric. If you’re an individual with abhorrence for “thinking outside the box” then I can assure you the direction researchers are leaning, in regard to CBD as an Autism treatment, is really going to agitate you. Science is science though, not everybody is always going to agree with the findings but that doesn’t make them any less relevant.


A 2013 Stanford University Study looking into the different affects certain genetic mutations that are related to Autism have on the brain of mice resulted in findings they didn’t expect. The doctors involved in this study are of the most distinguished I’ve seen in most studies I write about, and I write about a lot of studies.

Researchers involved in said study:

  • The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine co-awardee- Prof. Thomas Sudhof
  • Dr. Csasa Foldy
  • The 2010 Goldman-Rakic Prize in Neuroscience winner- Dr. Robert Malenka

They all set out to acquire a further understanding of how various mutations in the brain may or may not contribute to Autism. They focused their study on two types of NL3 neuroligin mutations (NL3 KO and R451C KI) with a few main goals in mind; two expressly:

Goals in mind:

Find a mutual phenotype between the two different NL3 mutations. Test if NL3 KO and R451C KI mutations cause different phenotypes, even in divergent synapses on the same neuron.

While looking at the mice they noticed that both the NL3 KO mutated mice and the R451C KI mutated mice had tonic endocannabinoid signaling that was disrupted. These finding are exciting: before this study researchers knew so little about tonic endocannabinoids that their existence as an unambiguous process was essentially unclear.

Given that this phenotype is found in both mutations of the NL3 neuroligins used [NL3 KO and R451C KI] this clearly shows that the NL3 molecule is the very first known molecule essential for tonic endocannabinoid signaling, subsequently substantiating the fact that tonic endocannabinoids aren’t “accidental” transient endocannabinoid leakages. In addition, this also gives strong credence to the theory that loss of endocannabinoid signaling may be a component to Autism.

When the researchers shifted focus to the RC451C KI mutated mice they were strongly motivated to prove R451C KI mutations can cause “loss of function”. They were irrefutably able to prove this theory which enabled them to say that Autism may be caused by a disruption in the child’s brain’s ability to send clear communications. This strongly suggesting that cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may be productively used in treating autism [by unblocking the disruptions].

To further the research into this researchers went international with their studies. In 2012 Dr. Daniele Piomelli, of the University of California Irvine and Dr. Olivier Manzoni of INSERM (French National Research Agency), took on “Fragile X mice” with similar goals in mind. They treated them with endocannabinoid compounds that corrected the endocannabinoid transmitters in their brains. (Endocannabinoid compounds made in your body share a significantly similar chemical structure with THC)

Once treated with endocannabinoid compounds the “Fragile X mice” exhibited immense improvements in maze tests aimed to “measure anxiety and open-space acceptance.” Overall, the study points towards potential cannabis treatments for the cognitive deficits and anxiety found in Autism as well as other disorders.
All 5 researchers across the two studies are in agreement that more research needs to be done.

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Currently 17 states allow cannabis use in children. Colorado being one of the first to do so, sending families moving to Colorado in droves to get this treatment for their child. Some moving thousands of miles. California has become a pioneer for marijuana research as well. Parents are coming out in mass numbers in support of the use of cannabis in their children. Their courage has given other parents the courage to speak out, ultimately creating a movement.

Improvements we've seen from Cannabis use in Autistic Children:

-Improved Sleep
-Diminished Hyperactivity
-Minimized Irritability
-Decreased Stereotypy
-Diminution in Seizures
-Decrease in Violent Outbursts
-Minimized Inappropriate Speech
-Initiating Physical Contact
-Improved appetite

Of course, the mental image of an Autistic child smoking a joint is incommodious; certainly you’ll be relieved to find out that’s not how they administer cannabis to children. There are two active ingredients in cannabis: THC and CBD. Either type can be administered numerous ways.

Administering Cannabis to Children:

-Edibles (Brownies, muffins, suckers, etc.)
-Drinks (Tea, Lemonade, Soda, etc.)
-Honey Sticks
-Oils and Lotions

There are other studies on medications relevant to cannabis use in Autism worth citing. Those being Dronabinol and Epidiolex. Dronabinol is a THC based medication given to chemotherapy and AIDS patients to battle weight loss and loss of appetite. In Autistic children it has shown exceptional results in all areas referred to above. Epidiolex is a CBD based medication that has shown to improve symptoms of epileptics. Currently there are studies going looking into its effectiveness when used in Autism.

It’s realized more research needs to be done, also, that there are side effects to cannabis usage. The prospect of any new treatment is exciting, this one more than most. Not because of the cannabis movement in America today, but because there are a lot of things on that list my child suffers through and no medication has ever helped with. I’ve set up 7 nights a week for 14 years, crying because my child won’t sleep (literally).

I’ve held my baby in basket holds while he tried his hardest to hurt himself or me-knowing he didn’t care which way it went. I’ve watched my angel seize continuously having to be put into a coma to calm his body while his mind continued to seize. Yes, I’ve begged in my head for him to want to be hugged all while wishing he’d calm down, and I cried for years while he struggled to speak. He’s gone through more in his 14 years than most do in their whole life.

So, you see, this prospect interests me as a parent in an impossible situation with a child that few understand.

The principal arguments made in opposition to this treatment are the side effects and potential for addiction. As I see it, a clear majority of medications used to treat Autistic children aren’t approved for use in minors or for the use of Autism. My child has been on countless medications over the years trying to find the right treatment for him, most of them not approved for what we were using it for, or for his age group. The best one being a bipolar medication that is not approved for minors or for the treatment of Autism; however, it works wonders on my child. A great deal of medications also do not help, or have preposterous side effects. Some are addicting as well (all ostensibly worse [to me] than the side effects concomitant with cannabis use). It seems that, perhaps, it’s time we open our minds to other approaches since none of the treatments we have now are up to par.

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