Canadian Case Study Shows further Promise for CBD and Autism
Big improvement in child's behavior when using CBD.
As any caregiver tending to the needs of a severely autistic child can tell you, the ongoing burdens for both the autistic child and his larger community can be quite immense. While SSRIs and antipsychotics are occasionally used to treat some of these difficult comorbidities, not all of them are effective, so new, preferably non-toxic alternatives with low side effects are always welcomed. A recent Canadian study published by Cureus recently discussed the case of a nine-year-old’s extraordinary success story with a 20:1 CBD/THC cannabis oil formulation. The effects were profound: while taking the formulation, the child was able to concentrate better in school, sleep better and control his own behaviors better. Conversely, at one point when he wasn’t able to take his medicine, the problematic behaviors and issues returned, and only subsided when he began taking his medication again.
Such stories are not uncommon in scientific literature. A 2021 study, for instance, polled the caregivers of 33 autistic children and found improvements across a range of behaviors, from expressive language to social interaction. The Canadian case study shows a particularly strong association between these behaviors and the use of CBD oil that the paper’s authors say warrants further exploration.
Before and After
The researchers couldn’t have found a more extreme case to highlight. Requiring 24-hour supervision since being diagnosed with non-verbal ASD at three years old, the subject suffered from a host of physical and mental ailments. He lashed out violently on a daily basis, both at himself and at others, often because of his own inability to express his issues to others. This extended to his experience at school, which was riven with conflict between himself, his teachers and the students around him. It made treatment for a comorbid case of Type I Diabetes even more difficult, as he would also inflict self-harm upon receiving his insulin shots.
His mother, however, refused to put him on psychiatric medications. Rather, she opted for cannabis oil treatments procured from a medical cannabis clinic when her son reached seven and a half years of age. Starting with 0.1 mL twice daily and increasing the dose every three or four days to reach 0.5 mL, results began to show within the first two weeks of treatment. For starters, prior to CBD, the patient’s incontinence was so severe he had to wear diapers. During his treatment, the diapers were no longer necessary. His concentration had improved to the point where he could trace letters and write. His grades improved, and his sleeping schedule lengthened, with a reduced sleep latency (10-15 minutes vs. four hours) and a full eight hours, versus four hours with fitful reawakenings throughout the night. He also exhibited signs of independence in washing his hands and putting himself back to bed. He was also able to keep proper meal intervals and refrain from overeating.
The patient’s family reported forgetting his medicine when going on a trip, during which the child reverted to his old pre-medicine behaviors. He cut back his verbal communication and gained insomnia, as well as self-injurious behavior. Thankfully, when he returned home and resumed medication, he regained his advancements within two days.
What does it all Mean?
The researchers suggest that gains such as these may result from CBD’s suppression of enzymes which break up the two major endocannabinoids 2-AG and anandamide, therefore increasing their bioavailability in the brain. Whatever the reasons for these improvements, it came without any side effects for the child.
The case study’s authors warn that short- and long-term effects of CBD have yet to be determined, and that negative side effects can happen for some. For instance, in the 2021 study, one 13-year old did suffer seizures when being treated with five mg of sublingual CBD. However, the study’s authors still consider CBD a valid treatment option for autism. As they conclude, “Altogether, this study presents a case that motivates further research and clinical studies to understand the molecular mechanism of CBD as well as the dosing regimes for pediatric populations, the etiology of ASD, and how various dosing affect different demographics.”