CBD and Autism Explained

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism is a term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental conditions. These conditions are often characterised by differences in communication and social interaction and people with autism usually demonstrates restricted and repetitive interests or patterns of behaviour. Symptoms of autism appear during the early stages of childhood, between ages 12 and 24 months, but symptoms may come earlier or later. Other symptoms include delayed movement, language, hyperactivity, unusual eating habits, unexpected emotional reactions, stress, and seizures. There’s still limited studies on CBD but is known for its health benefits including anxiety and stress, both of which can be common conditions for people with autism.

CBD for Autism

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from the hemp plant. It is known to treat a wide variety of health issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, high blood pressure, seizures, and epilepsy. Unlike THC, which is a psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis plants, CBD is not psychoactive and will not cause you to feel high. There are three types of CBD, containing different compounds and concentrations: full-spectrum CBD includes all components of the cannabis plants and up to 0.3 THC which makes it federally legal; broad-spectrum CBD has all the components of cannabis plants except THC; and CBD isolates, which contain no other compounds from cannabis plants. There is no exact dosing of CBD, but the range typically starts from 5 mg and can increase up to 25 mg depending on your doctor’s suggestion and what you want to treat. You should consult with your doctor before taking CBD. 

How Does CBD Work for Autism?

The exact causes of autism remain largely unknown, but some researchers have suggested that people with autism have imbalances in their endogenous neurotransmission system such as serotonin levels, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating functions in the body including mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and serotonin receptors and helps alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, vomiting, stress, and pain.  

Is There any Study to Prove CBD Effects on Autism?

Yes. A study was conducted in 2019 and suggested that CBD oil may be effective for the treatment of autism symptoms in people with epilepsy. The study found out that 14 out of 15 people that went through CBD treatment had improved. Another study was conducted on 188 autistic people in 2019 and found that CBD seems to be well-tolerated, safe and effective for symptom relief. The effectiveness of CBD depends on the type and more research is still needed. Some research also suggests that taking THC and CBD together will be more effective than using CBD alone, and this theory is called the entourage effect. A full-spectrum CBD product contains CBD and up to 0.3 THC which will not cause you to feel high and is legal.

How can CBD Help Autism-Associated Issues?

There is limited research on CBD as a way to help treat autism-associated issues, but some research suggests that it offers therapeutic benefits including symptoms that can be common for people with autism. 

1. Epilepsy

2. Anxiety

3. Sleeplessness

4. Stress

1. CBD Effects on Epilepsy caused by Autism

Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Epilepsy can cause deficit sensorimotor and cognitive, affecting a person’s quality of life. CBD works for epilepsy caused by autism by targeting the transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV). It is involved in the modulation of seizures and epilepsy. A clinical trial was conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital wherein 13 patients started taking 5 mg of CBD every day for 1 week. The results showed a 50% convulsion in 9 out of 13 patients.

2. CBD Effects on Anxiety caused by Autism

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It may cause you to feel restless and tense, and have an increased heartbeat. Anxiety can be a normal stress reaction but in some cases, can lead to aggressive behaviour towards others or themselves. Although anxiety is not a core feature of autism, some studies suggest that 40% of people with autism have elevated levels of anxiety or have at least one anxiety disorder, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some research has shown that CBD works by affecting serotonin levels in the brain which is responsible for regulating a person’s mood, sleep, and behaviour. Studies also suggest that CBD work similarly to antidepressant and anxiety medications. CBD is a great option for people who have tried using traditional medications in dealing with autism aggression as CBD is shown to have anti-aggressive effects and can reduce a person’s anxiety.

3. CBD Effects on Sleeplessness caused by Autism

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or cause a person to wake up too early and not get back to sleep. People with insomnia often feel tired. People with autism tend to have insomnia and some have sleep apnea, a condition that causes them to stop breathing several times during the night. Sleep in people with autism spend about 15% of their sleeping time in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which is critical for learning and retaining memories. Studies suggest that CBD improves the symptoms of REM and grogginess, which is another symptom of insomnia. Many researchers suggest that CBD improves sleep as it tackles the root causes of insomnia. 

4. CBD Effects on Stress caused by Autism

Stress is a feeling of physical or emotional tension. It can be caused by an event or anything that makes you angry, frustrated, or nervous. Stress can also be your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand which can be positive as it can help you avoid danger or meet deadlines. People with autism often feel an overwhelming sense of physical and emotional exhaustion. Stress can affect them psychologically and physically and this can lead to meltdowns and depression. Studies show that CBD helps with stress as it binds to 5-HTIA which has the strongest role in anxiety disorders and stress. Science suggests that CBD could help stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain. 

Does CBD Cause any Side Effects for Autism?

Yes. Although CBD is well-tolerated and has a good safety profile, there are still potential side effects including fatigue, diarrhoea, and changes in appetite especially when taken the wrong way. CBD can also interact with some medications you’re taking and they may end up not working or side effects may increase.

Should You Consult Your Doctor Before Using CBD for Autism?

Yes. You should consult your doctor before taking CBD. CBD can interact with other medications you’re taking and consuming too much CBD can cause side effects. There is also no correct dosing of CBD, but the range typically starts from the lowest possible dosage which is 5 mg and may increase depending on your doctor’s suggestion. You should talk to your doctor first to know how much CBD you should take initially. 

Is CBD Safe for Kids with Autism?

A study conducted in 2018 suggested that CBD may be effective in improving symptoms of autism in children but the efficacy and safety should be further evaluated with large-scale clinical trials. CBD may interact with other medications your child is taking especially ones with grapefruit warning. Other studies are being conducted around the world to know the safest and most effective doses of CBD for children with autism.

Are some CBD Products Safer or more Effective than Others for Autism?

Currently, there is no cure for autism but there are medicines that help treat autism symptoms such as seizures, insomnia, and trouble focusing. For children with autism, Risperidone (Risperdal) is the only FDA-approved drug and can be prescribed for children between the ages of 5 and 16 but Risperidone may cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, and heartburn. Doctors have found that the medication is most effective when combined with behavioural, occupational, physical, and speech therapies. CBD on the other hand has a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect. It may also result in fewer side effects than other medications. Aside from promoting a healthy nervous system and reducing anxiety, CBD may also improve your moody and entire well-being. 

How to Use CBD for Autism

There are a lot of ways to consume CBD: inhalation, sublingual, ingestion, and topical. The consumption method depends on your preference and what you want to treat. Here are the best ways to take CBD for autism.

  • Inhalation. Smoking or vaping CBD is the quickest way to absorb CBD into your bloodstream if you need fast relief. Smoking or vaping CBD will take effect within 10 to 15 minutes after use.
  • Sublingual. Smoking and vaping CBD can leave you with a hoarse voice, sore throat and oral infections. Using CBD oil sublingually is also another way to use CBD. Put your doctor’s recommended number of drops under your tongue for at least 90 seconds before swallowing them. Effects will be felt within 15 minutes after use.
  • Ingestion. Ingesting CBD pills, capsules, or gummies is the easiest way to consume CBD. Consuming CBD by ingestion will take at least 25 minutes to 3 hours before you feel it taking effect as it needs to pass through your digestive tract.

How Much CBD should I Use for Autism?

There is currently no correct dosing for CBD, however, using CBD might be easier than taking traditional prescription medication. Side effects such as decreased appetite, fatigue, dry mouth, and diarrhoea, are reported to be lower than with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. The dosing of CBD will depend on a lot of factors including the person’s age, gender, biology, weight, and what you want to treat. Here is the standard recommended dosing of CBD based on a person’s weight.

Weight Low Dosage Medium DosageHigh Dosage
25 lbs2 mg4 mg6 mg
50 lbs5 mg10 mg15 mg
100 lbs10 mg20 mg30 mg
150 lbs15 mg30 mg45 mg
200 lbs20 mg40 mg60 mg

What are the Best CBD Products for Autism?

Here is a list of some of the CBD products for autism.

1. ZenBears Gummy Bears: 600 mg per bottle, vegan, forest-friendly, organic, broad-spectrum CBD 

2. Kanibi CBD Oil: 750 mg bottle, full-spectrum CBD, organic, CO2 extraction

3. Kat’s Naturals CBD Oil: 300 mg per bottle, organic, CO2 extraction, no-THC, CBD isolate

4. Blue Moon Hemp – CBD Tinctures: 500 mg per bottle, 100% natural, no-THC, hemp-derived

5. Funky Farms Vape Juice: 250 mg per bottle, full-spectrum CBD, hemp-derived

6. NuLeaf Naturals CBD Oil: 300 mg per bottle, full-spectrum CBD, organic, CO2 extraction

7. PureKana CBD Oral Spray:180 mg per bottle, full-spectrum CBD, CO2 extraction

What are the Other Beneficial Effects of CBD?

  • CBD for Asthma. CBD acts as a bronchodilator that can benefit those with asthma symptoms by opening up their respiratory airways. CBD can decrease hyperresponsiveness in your respiratory airways by reducing sensitivity to triggers that often cause asthma attacks. 
  • CBD for Diabetes. Diabetes is an anti-inflammatory condition and studies have shown that CBD reduces insulin resistance and can moderate the blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes not taking insulin.
  • CBD for Migraine. CBD is known to relieve pain and reduce inflammation and some research suggests that CBD may help treat migraines.
  • CBD for Hangover. CBD has anti-anxiety and antiemetic effects and can reduce symptoms of a hangover including vomiting and nausea.
  • CBD for Epilepsy. CBD may stop seizures by activating certain cells called the CB1 receptors which are cells found in the nervous system. Currently, there’s one FDA approved CBD product which is Epidiolex. Epidiolex is a prescription medicine that is used to treat epilepsy and seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex.

CBD for Skin Care. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD may be used on your to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.