Autism is a difficult to treat disorder with no available cures. Mainly because of the many different causes and symptoms it can bring about. However, many patients (and their parents) are desperate for an effective treatment. Considering autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - as it is actually called - greatly impacts social behavior and communication. Now research shows, that CBD oil could possibly decrease symptoms linked to various disorders on the autism spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a difficult disorder to treat, unfortunately. For some part, this has to do with the fact that it can have many different causes. As such, the developmental disorder is associated with both genetic and external factors. This includes - but is not limited to - certain infections during the pregnancy, toxins used (alcohol and other drugs), pesticides, air pollution and autoimmune diseases.
Therefor, symptoms of the ‘disease’ - if we can even call it that - might vary a lot. In fact, the term ‘spectrum’ in the name refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity individual patients might experience. In general however, autism is characterized by communicative disorders, deviant social behavior and limited mobility or repeated movements. And as it begins in early childhood - often discovered within the first year - most (severe) patients are children. Luckily, early and adequate treatment could greatly benefit the child’s development.
Inhibiting brain stimuli
Symptoms of various autism spectrum disorders often find their origin in the brain. Considering most of them are caused by a decreased inhibition of signals in the brain. And when these signals in the brain are not properly tamed, it can cause the brain to go in a sort of overdrive. This might be expressed as a hypersensitivity to light, sound, smells and touch. Which could trigger patients to react undesirably; with (physical) aggression or other extreme emotions, for example. Though in about 25 percent of ASD-cases, the brain gets so overstimulated that it can even cause extremely heavy epileptic seizures.
Accordingly, scientists focus on the inhibition of brain stimuli to decrease these symptoms and hopefully treat the disorder. Researchers of the Stanford University have tested this on mice, which were altered to show autism-like symptoms. Using optogenetics lights, the scientist then were able to increase the brain’s inhibiting function; which greatly helped to decrease the autism symptoms. Though unfortunately this technique does not work for people (yet).
Studies on CBD and autism
Another group of scientists - from the university of Washington - tried to get the same results using a different treatment: Cannabidiol (CBD). This is one of the best known cannabinoids found in hemp plants. But it is also the main ingredient in our high quality CBD oil. A product which is actually gaining momentum in the medical community; because of its many possible medical uses. One of the most prominent according to scientists, is CBD’s efficacy as a possible treatment of Dravet Syndrome; a severe form of child-epilepsy. An effect which has been proven by clinical trials.
Considering epilepsy and autism both have to do with some form of limited inhibition of brain stimuli - and autistic patients might even experience epileptic seizures themselves. It is only logical to investigate if CBD oil has the same positive effects on autism. While most evidence of CBD’s effects on autism is merely anecdotal; there is this one clinical trial, completed in 2019, on which we can rely.
CBD and autism-related symptoms
The researchers from Washington used their animal model of Dravet syndrome in order to study CBD oil’s effects on autism-like symptoms. Although the rodents could have spontaneous attacks and autism-related behavior just like humans; people and mice are still different. So to be able to make the right comparisons and draw valid conclusions, some situations had to be staged.
One of these situations forced a mouse to choose between interacting with another mouse or with a lifeless object. Where mice would normally prefer to spend time with other mice. The ones with autistic traits (like Dravet) liked to spend an even amount of time with the object as they did with the mouse. When treated with a small dose of CBD (approximately one tenth of an anti-epileptic dose) however; researchers reported an increase of the time spent with the other mouse.
Effects of CBD oil on autism
So the autistic mice were prone to avoid social interaction at first; and they literally hid in a corner. The scientists say this reaction comes from social anxiety, caused by excessive social stimuli. By using Cannabidiol from hemp though, this behavior decreased. On the other hand, the animals showed an increase in the quality of their social interaction.
In short, this shows that CBD improved the situation on both measure-points. We must note though, this was a study performed on mice and the results for humans might not be the same. Even though the internet is full of anecdotal evidence of CBD oil’s efficacy in treating kids with autism:
By recording the electric signals in the brain of the rodents in the study; the scientists were able to understand how CBD actually works in a brain with autism. Apparently, CBD blocks the GPR55-receptor. Which in response increases the inhibiting function of brain cells; and restores the balance in the brain. Considering this receptor is responsible for the communication between brain cells. It is believed to be one of the main reasons behind CBD oil’s efficacy in treating autism-related symptoms, inflammations and (chronic) pain - amongst other ailments.