Cannabis and Autism

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that can have a mild to significant impact on quality of life. It is a condition that generally presents around two to three years of age and can impair social interaction, developmental language and communication skills.

The implications of Autism are wide-ranging and fall under the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Symptoms can range from mild, to non-verbal communication to disability requiring institutionalization.

Statistics show that around one-third of people with Autism are non-verbal and it affects boys more than girls. The 2018 National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System reported that 1 in 66 children in Canada are affected by Autism. This statistic notes that Autism affects 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a wide-ranging term for the symptoms associated with Autism. Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that can cause significant impairment in communication and developmental skills.

There is no known cause of Autism, although researchers believe its development is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children with autism generally have trouble communicating and have a poor understanding of how other people feel and think. Symptoms can include non-verbal communication, rigid and repetitive behaviours, and at its worst, devastating disabilities that require the person to be institutionalized.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder is classified into one of three types of the disease. These three groups are Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Autistic Disorder is the classic term most people think of when they hear the word Autism. People who suffer from this disorder generally have significant social challenges, including language delays and communication challenges. It is also common for people with Autistic Disorder to have intellectual disabilities and learning delays.

Asperger Syndrome is usually associated with a milder level of disability and is not generally associated with intellectual disability. People with Asperger Syndrome are typically able to communicate effectively and display less pronounced symptoms of an Autistic Disorder.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder is the umbrella term for people who do not meet the criteria for Autistic Disorder or Asperger Syndrome. They generally display mild symptoms with difficulty in social situations or with communication.

Traditional Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder

The traditional treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is multi-faceted and includes behavioural therapies, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and oftentimes pharmaceutical medications.

It is important to note that there is no single pharmaceutical treatment which affects the three most common characteristics of autism: difficulty communicating, social challenges and self-injurious behaviour.

It is also important to treat associated medical conditions such as ADHDsleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, epilepsyanxietydepression and obsessive compulsive disorder. These issues are typically seen in conjunction with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In an article entitled Autism Research Review International, the Dr. Rimland states “it seems to me if one is going to need to use drugs, one ought to consider a relatively safe drug like marijuana”. He went on to say that “clearly, medical marijuana is not a drug to be administered lightly. Of all drugs, the psychotropic drugs are among the least useful and most dangerous, and the benefit/risk profile of medical marijuana seems fairly benign in comparison.”

How Can Cannabis Help?

Research on cannabis as a treatment for Autism is limited and has only recently begun gaining traction in Israel, where a 2017 study was begun on cannabis oil and autism. Dr. Adi Aran, the lead researcher, stated that “parents of children with serious diseases are constantly looking for answers, and one of the things they asked to try was cannabis”. This research study was borne out of pressure from parents to use cannabis to treat their Autistic children.

Dr. Aran began seeing positive results in his patients who were administered daily cannabis and felt that he needed to begin research to back up the claims. Dr. Aran began to study 120 children and young adults, aged 5 to 29, who have mild to severe forms of Autism. The study began in 2017 and lasted until the end of 2018, with the data yet to be formally published.

There are many anecdotal stories of parents who have turned to cannabis to treat their Autistic children, including the story of Noa Shulman. Noa Shulman is a 17-year-old who suffers from debilitating symptoms of Autism.  Her mother, Yael, had tried the recommended antipsychotic medications to treat the condition, however she found that her daughter turned into a “zombie”. Each day Yael was required to feed and bathe her daughter, change her diapers and try to communicate with her non-verbal daughter. It wasn’t until she enrolled her daughter in a cannabis oil study that Yael started to see positive results. Yael reported that most days her daughter is calmer after taking cannabis oil, however she does still have her bad days.

Apollo Cannabis Clinics Can Help

Apollo Cannabis Clinics are one of the few clinics in Canada that sees pediatric patients. We staff specialists who are able to manage the diverse symptoms of autism through daily cannabis use and individualized treatment plans.

All medical cannabis usage is supervised by one of Apollo’s doctors and provides ongoing care and support. Parents interested in utilizing medical cannabis to treat childhood Autism should contact one of Apollo Cannabis Clinics today to see how cannabis may benefit their child.

In order to start the process, please fill out a consultation form ( to the right ). Once completed you will be contacted by one of Apollo’s representatives to set an appointment date to meet with one of our doctors.

Apollo has 5 locations in Etobicoke, Aurora, North York, Yorkville, Yonge and Eglinton and Toronto where patients will meet with a doctor face-to-face. At all other clinics patients will meet with their doctor through the Digital Patient Network to complete the initial appointment.

Once the initial appointment is complete, the doctor will provide a medical cannabis recommendation and patient educators will assist each patient with an individualized treatment plan and ongoing support.

Find out if medical cannabis is right for you.