Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects all diagnosed individuals differently, hence its categorization as a spectrum disorder. Some cases are more debilitating than others, requiring greater assistance and care throughout one’s life. Signs of ASD typically present themselves early in an infant’s life, with reliable diagnoses made as young as 2-3 years old. Though each case of ASD presents itself differently, it is typically characterized by challenges with social skills, difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, poor motor skills, and pronounced sensory sensitivities. There’s no one cause for Autism, and scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors increase the likelihood of a child developing autism.
Similarly, no specific treatment can be identified for ASD as everyone affected has different needs based on their strengths and weaknesses, though general consensus agrees early diagnosis and treatment leads to more positive outcomes. Most interventions focus on teaching patients self help techniques and behavioral awareness, while only two FDA approved medications exist to address irritability and aggression associated with Autism. This is significant when one considers the range of disorders those with ASD can experience. More than half have one or more chronic sleep disorders, children with ASD are eight times more likely to have a gastrointestinal disorders, as many as one third have epilepsy, and 4-35% have schizophrenia compared to 1.1% in the general population.
Surprisingly, diagnoses of ASD have increased threefold over the last three decades. In the next decade alone, 500,000 teens will age out of school-based Autism services, and will be far less likely to receive assistance with this transition compared to those with other special health needs. According to the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the total economic costs of treating Autism in America came to $268 billion in 2015, a figure projected to rise to $461 billion by 2025 if current trends continue. These staggering numbers are exacerbated by the fact that most adults with Autism struggle to find employment, with nearly half of 25 year olds with the disorder never having held a paying job. This makes finding affordable and effective care for ASD not only a social and humane imperative, but an economic one as well.
Recently, CBD enriched cannabis has demonstrated beneficial effects in children with Autism. In 2018, Dr. Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam built upon these findings with a study that used Tikun Olam’s Avidekel oil to characterize the epidemiology of ASD patients. Their goal was to determine whether or not CBD is a safe and effective treatment for Autism. From a pediatric test population of 188, quality of life improved in 66.8% of patients, rage attacks decreased for 90.3%, and restlessness improved for 91% of patients. Significantly, 34.3% managed to decrease other medications including anti-psychotics, anti-epileptics, and antidepressants. Want to learn more about this study? Go here for an in depth look at Dr. Schleider and Dr. Mechoulam’s findings.