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Autism and Medicinal Cannabis

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a lifelong disability characterised by varying degrees of communication impairment.

Every person living with autism experiences these challenges in different ways and to different extents, with symptoms ranging from trouble maintaining eye-contact and obsessive interests, to difficulties forming social bonds.

There is no defined cause of autism, but most scientists generally agree that autism is influenced by a combination of genetic predispositions and external environmental factors. 

Autism is a spectrum disorder, and as a result, every person living with ASD has a unique set of challenges and strengths they need to navigate. Some people with ASD can live completely independently, and some may require full time support.

What are the symptoms of Autism?

Autism is a disorder that mainly impacts the brain, so unless the symptoms are severe they aren't visually detectable. Symptoms of ASD include: 

  • Difficulties sharing emotions/interests/maintaining a back-and-forth conversation
  • Issues with nonverbal communication
  • Trouble maintaining eye contact 
  • Difficulty reading body language
  • Difficulties developing and maintaining relationships
  • Restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour or activities
  • Repetitive movements, motions, or speech patterns
  • Rigid adherence to specific routines or behaviours
  • Fixated interests or preoccupations

Factors that may influence the development of Autism:

  • Advanced parental age at time of conception
  • Prenatal exposure to air pollution or certain pesticides
  • Maternal obesity, diabetes, or immune system disorders
  • Extreme prematurity or very low birth weight
  • Any birth difficulty leading to periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain

How can medicinal cannabis help with Autism?

Studies have shown that cannabis could be beneficial as a treatment for some symptoms of Autism, specifically with behavioural improvements. 

One study explored the link between medicinal cannabis and behavioural improvements in children under 18 with ASD, with results supporting that cannabis is a well-tolerated and effective medication to keep tics, seizures and rage attacks under control. 80% of participants reported improvements in their symptoms after continual use.

Some of the cannabis products that have shown to be beneficial treatments to Autism sufferers include:

  • Nabiximols
  • Dronbinol
  • THC extracts
  • THC:CBD extracts
  • CBD extracts
  • Cannabis sativa

They can be consumed as an oil, vape liquid, sprays and wafers.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Autism and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.