A new breakthrough study has found some interesting conclusions when it comes to ASD and it’s potential treatment with Cannabis. A new study, conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center, considered patients with autism who are 18 years old and under. They’re findings support cannabis as a potential treatment for autism spectrum disorders as it appeared to be a well-tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage attacks.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder or ASD, is an extensive developmental disorder that is expressed in almost all dimensions of the child’s development and affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life. It is now common to refer to this disorder as a wide range of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in which there are various manifestations and symptoms. Scientists all over the world are busy trying to pinpoint the exact causes of ASD, and while we still don’t know, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. It is still trying to be understood why some people develop ASD and others don’t, and we still are a ways off to understanding so. Until then, cannabis looks like a very promising solution to those managing ASD and their caregivers.
The study had a pretty decent sample size of 188 individuals and considered a treatment of cannabis oil containing 30 percent cannabidiol oil (CBD) and 1.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Symptoms, including those mentioned above and side effects at six months were primary interests and were assessed by structured questionnaires. To put it simply, the patients were asked certain questions, and their responses recorded. After treatment time of six months, patients were asked the same questions again, the answers recorded, and both sets of answers, before and after treatment, were compared. Overall, after six months of treatment, 30 percent of patients reported a significant improvement, 53.7 percent reported moderate improvement, and only 15 percent had slight or no change.
Now, getting to the details of why this is such a successful study. Quality of life is a major concern of healthcare professionals when it comes to their patients managing any kind of condition. This, mood, and the ability to perform activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing were assessed. A good quality of life was reported by 31.3 percent of patients before treatments began and in six months, good quality of life more than doubled to 66.8 percent! Positive mood was reported as 42 percent before treatment and 63.5 after six months. The ability to dress and shower independently improved significantly from cannabis treatment. Only a quarter (26.4 percent) reported no difficulty prior to the treatment while 42.9 percent improved their ability to dress and shower independently after the treatment began. Cannabis oil medication also significantly improved sleep and concentration. Good sleep and concentration were reported by 3.3 percent and zero percent respectively at the outset vs. 24.7 percent and 14 percent during an active treatment.
Now, these are all numbers and data to support the use of cannabis in mainstream medicine. But what about the people this data affects? What do they have to say?
Enter Mieko Hester-Perez, an Orange County, Calif., mom who is convinced cannabis saved her child’s life. Her son, Joey, a 10-year-old with severe autism, weighed just 46 pounds at that time. He stopped eating after the medications he had been taking to control his behavior took away his appetite. “You could see the bones in his chest and in his arms and legs,” Hester-Perez says. “He had stopped walking and he would bruise very easily.” “Joey began exhibiting behaviors typical of children with severe autism—he would hit himself, bang on walls, and throw anything he could get his hands on.” “He was very unpredictable,” she says, so much so that she avoided inviting company over or taking Joey to someone else’s house. “I could no longer socialize with friends or family due to his behavior.”
She tried behavior modification, a gluten-free, casein-free diet, and over 13 different medications with limited success. While some of the medicines managed to reduce Joey’s outbursts, the results were fleeting, according to the mother. “The effects of the medication were temporary. It seems like every three weeks we were either changing the doses or changing the medication, which is normal, but that took a toll on his body,” she says. All of the medicines—including Ritalin, Focalin and Risperdal—had serious physical side effects on Joey. They included facial ticks, seizures and liver damage, but worst of all, a lack of appetite that left Joey emaciated and weak.
Hester-Perez says she noticed an improvement immediately. “Joey was mellow,” she says. “He wanted to sit in his room and play with his toys. Autistic kids don’t want to play with toys. We noticed that he wasn’t on edge as much.” Since then, Joey has been taking one cannabis brownie—about the size of a 50-cent piece—every two to three days. “The other meds I was giving to Joey he would take three times a day and they were not having the same effect as the medical cannabis,” Hester-Perez says.
For Joey, Hester-Perez found an ally in Aaron Justis, President of Los Angeles-based cannabis facility, Buds & Roses. Justis, who was touched by Joey’s story, oversaw the creation of a strain formulated especially for him, called Joey’s Strain. They are hoping to make it available in other legal states for moms like Hester-Perez, so they, too, can find some relief for their autistic children.
It is important to remember that autism is diagnosed in early childhood, so treating a child with cannabis should be carefully considered and done in consultation with a medical professional.
Until more studies can support what parents of autistic children already know, there are cannabis strains that help with the accompanying conditions of autism.
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Until Next Time Tribe,