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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? (ASD)

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that can have a mild or significant impact on one’s 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.

Individuals, and more often children, diagnosed with ASD commonly exhibit comorbid symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity, self-injury, aggressiveness, sleep disorders, and anxiety. Pharmaceutical treatment methods include the use of various psychotropic medications, anxiolytics, and stimulants. Non-pharmaceutical treatment options include behavioral management therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and education/school-based therapies to name a few. 

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 is affected by Autism. This statistic notes that Autism affects 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

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.

Are there different types of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is classified into one of three types: 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 Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

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

It is important to note that there is no single pharmaceutical treatment that 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 ADHD, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These issues are typically seen in conjunction with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In an article entitled Autism Research Review International, 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 Medical Cannabis Help Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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.

In a 2021 clinical review of existing cannabis literature related to autism, it concluded ““Cannabis products have been demonstrated to reduce the number and/or intensity of different symptoms, including hyperacidity, attacks of self-mutilation and anger, sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, aggressiveness perseverance, and depression. Moreover, they are associated with an improvement in cognition, sensory sensitivity, attention, social interaction, and language.” The author of the study concluded ““Cannabis and cannabinoids may have promising effects in the treatment of symptoms related to ASD, and can be used as a therapeutic alternative in the relief of those symptoms.”

 

Looking for more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder and how CBD Oil can be used to treat the symptoms of ASD? Read our article “CBD and Autism Spectrum Disorder: What You Need To Know

Apollo Cannabis Clinics Can Help

Apollo Cannabis Clinics are one of the few clinics in Canada that see pediatric patients. Our specialists are able to help with the management of the diverse symptoms of autism through daily cannabis use and individualized treatment plans.

All medical cannabis usage is supervised by one of Apollo’s healthcare practitioners who provides ongoing care and support. Parents interested in learning more about medical cannabis to treat childhood Autism should contact one of Apollo Cannabis Clinics today to see how cannabis may benefit their child. Apollo sees all individuals with autism spectrum disorder regardless of age. 

If you are interested in scheduling a free phone or video consultation to see if medical cannabis would be right for you or a loved one, please complete this form or contact us directly at 1-877-560-9195, option 1.

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Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.

Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.