medical marijuana for aspergers

CBD oil and asperger syndrome

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  1. Research overview
  2. The studies
  3. Patient perspectives
  4. What the experts say
  5. Bottom line

Often regarded as a high-functioning form of autism, Asperger syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) group. Typical symptoms of Asperger syndrome include delayed language development and social anxiety or disconnection.

Researchers have uncovered that a significant percentage of children with Asperger syndrome have been successfully treated with CBD-rich oil. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Prescription medications for ASD, most notably risperidone, often come with serious side effects that affect the body, mind, and behavior, sometimes even precipitating violent outbursts. Thus, there is a growing need in the ASD community for a functional treatment option without such adverse effects.

Full-spectrum cannabis oil, derived from cannabidiol (CBD)-rich cultivars, utilizing the cannabinoid-rich flowers to maintain beneficial terpenes during the extraction process is showing some promise as a viable treatment option for patients with Asperger syndrome and their caregivers.

Research overview

Whole-plant CBD oil has demonstrated potential for treating numerous incurable conditions. Among them are epilepsy, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Some studies have indicated that CBD oil may also serve as a treatment for ASD, including Asperger syndrome.

The studies

One study published in 2013 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders documented that children with autistic disorders have an increased number of cannabinoid receptors on their circulating white blood cells, suggesting an imbalance in their endocannabinoid systems (ECSs). Measuring endocannabinoid levels has been difficult because these compounds are made on-demand when needed and then broken down as soon as they are used.

Another study, by researchers from Stanford University in California and published in Molecular Autism in 2018, documented that children with autism have lower levels of anandamide compared with children not diagnosed with autism. Anandamide is one of the brain’s endocannabinoids, and it works to balance the neurotransmitter messages that are sent between cells. Without this compound, cells send inappropriate or overwhelming messages. This is the basis of treating autism with cannabis, as both of these studies demonstrate an endocannabinoid deficiency in children with ASD.

Studies indicate that CBD-rich cannabis oil may serve as a legitimate treatment for autism spectrum disorder, including Asperger syndrome. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Further, a 2018 Israeli study examined the effects of oral CBD and THC on 60 children with autism. Researchers reported strong improvement in behavioral outbreaks in 61% of the children following treatment. However, fewer than half of the children experienced notable improvements in communication and anxiety. In either case, the sample size was limited, only one variety of cannabis was tested, and the results may not offer definitive answers. The scientists were nonetheless encouraged by the study and are now conducting a clinical trial with 120 children.

Patient perspectives

Beyond clinical trials, researchers have uncovered other evidence that a significant percentage of children with Asperger syndrome and other ASD diagnoses have been successfully treated with CBD-rich cannabis oil. Survey results published in 2019 in Remedy Review revealed that more than 40% of parents of children with ASD have tried some type of CBD treatment.

The most popular methods of administering CBD oil were via water (43%) and by inserting drops directly into the mouth (32%). The most common patient benefits reported by those surveyed were improved mood (56%), less anxiety (53%), and stress relief (45%). Finally, the parents whose children used CBD were nearly 55% more likely to rate the treatments as moderately or extremely effective compared to those using prescription medications.

For parents who feel they have exhausted all treatment options without success, a positive outcome with cannabis oil can seem remarkable. Rachel Anderson, whose son has a rare form of epilepsy and ASD, told Healthline in 2019, “we had tried six or seven pharmaceutical drugs. None of them worked, or if they did, they had serious side effects that made life miserable for all of us.”

Anderson claims the CBD oil has reduced her son’s seizures while addressing his ASD symptoms. She said, “My son is horribly anxious, but when we give him his CBD, he’s cool as a cucumber.”

What the experts say

Many expert opinions appear to align with the stories that parents are conveying. Dr. Bernard Rimland, who died in 2006, was the director of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego and wrote extensively about the potential of medical marijuana as a treatment for autism and associated disorders as editor of Autism Research Review International.

There is abundant anecdotal evidence to indicate that CBD-rich cannabis oil is an effective treatment option for Asperger syndrome and other forms of autism. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Today, Rimland’s ideas are making progress. Other medical practitioners at the Autism Research Institute agreed with Rimland, and cannabis is listed as a treatment for ASD on the institute’s website. Indeed, the notion of using CBD oil and other cannabis treatments for Asperger syndrome is growing in the autism community. In 2018, Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization for autism spectrum disorders, hosted the first scientific conference on ASD and cannabis. Held in New York, the conference addressed the need for more research into the effects of cannabis on ASD.

“As more states legalize cannabis, we know that a growing number of families affected by autism are considering these products to relieve severe behavioral symptoms, seizures and other challenging autism-related conditions,” said Thomas Frazier, Ph.D., chief science officer for Autism Speaks. “But while anecdotal reports of benefit are common, we lack sufficient scientific evidence on effectiveness and risks.”

Bottom line

There is abundant anecdotal evidence to indicate that CBD-rich cannabis oil is an effective treatment option for Asperger syndrome and other forms of autism, but more in-depth studies with large sample sizes are needed to establish scientific proof.

CBD oil and asperger syndrome Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Research overview The studies Patient perspectives What the experts

Autism/Asperger Syndrome and Medical Cannabis

Autism & Asperger Syndrome (AS) and Medical Cannabis


Autism is thought to exist on a spectrum to some extent, although all types of autism, whether “low” or “high” functioning, seem to have one particular symptom in common: extreme sensitivity to external stimuli. Some find ways to manage this, whilst others sadly do not. Whilst some delineate between the conditions “Autism” and “Asperger Syndrome”, many have incorporated the once-separate (often considered a sub-type) “Asperger’s” or “Asperger Syndrome” into “Autism”.

Download Guide to Autism and Cannabis

Potential Efficacy / Quality of Evidence (Low, Average, High) of Medical Marijuana for Autism & Asperger’s Syndrome

Cannabinoids, Terpenes/Terpenoids, Strains and Ratios that May Help

  • THC may help increase anandamide production.
  • CBD may help manage autism as well.
  • A combination of CBD, THC, CBDA and THCA may be helpful.
  • CBD:THC 20:1; CBD:THC 1:1

Medical Cannabis Pros

  • Cannabis is an anxiolytic, easing the stress of overstimulation as well as social interaction and preventing the likelihood of repetitive or self-injurious behavior.
  • Could cannabis help synesthesia be more pleasurable/tolerable?
  • Could help reduce or replace the need for antidepressants, antipsychotics and stimulants, many of which are not best taken together in the first instance.
  • Cannabis may help regulate synapse signalling problems in autistics, in particular anandamide signalling [1].
  • Blocking CB1 receptors can relieve seizures, memory issues, anxiety and other problems associated with Fragile X Syndrome [2].
  • There is some suggestion that those with autism have an awry default mode network (DMN). The default mode network (DMN) is a network of interacting brain regions that is active when a person is not focused on the outside world, measurable with the fMRI technique. Could cannabinoids help reset the DMN to some extent?

Medical Cannabis Cons

  • Evidence for the efficacy of cannabis for autism is limited and mostly anecdotal.
  • Large amounts of THC may increase anxiety in some.
  • May also induce “over-stimulation” of the senses.
  • The right cannabinoid-terpenoid profile must be used, or cannabinoids may prove ineffective.

More About the Condition

Autism can cause sensory processing difficulties as it alters how nerve cells and synapses connect and organize. There is some evidence to suggest that those with autism are more likely to experience synesthesia [3], suggesting that there is definitely both an extreme sensitivity to light, taste, touch and sound and a “crossing” or “joining” of the senses to some degree. However, autism is also characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive behavior. Extreme anxiety and an inability to easily understand others is also a symptom of autism.

Cannabis may help for autism in several regards. One, cannabis could help regulate synapse signalling in those with autism. There are mutations of the protein neuroligin-3 found in those with autism, which can interfere with endocannabinoid signalling in the brain [4].

Two, CBD could possibly help modulate the immune system, which is found to be dysregulated in those with autism [5]. Those with autism also seem shifts in their gut microbiota, and are prone to IBS. Again, cannabis could help treat these symptoms.

Three, those with autism are often prescribed a mixture of antidepressants, antipsychotics (e.g. risperidone, aripiprazole) and stimulants. These all have a significant number of side-effects when compared to cannabinoid-based medications, and could be reduced or replaced.

Four, cannabinoids may help improve the mood and reduce anxiety. So there are several ways in which cannabis can help with autism – more research is needed to see how and in what way, precisely.

Medical marijuana is a strange yet novel approach to treating autism/Aspergers. Here are some of the positives and negatives of using cannabis for autism.