According to the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD 10), Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects brain function. It is no longer considered a psychological condition or a psychiatric illness. Terminologies used today include: ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders), Autism, Autistic Disorder, and bluntly Autism Spectrum. Autism is an early developmental disorder of the child appearing before the age of 3 years. It is characterized by isolation, disruption of social interactions, language disorders, nonverbal communication and stereotyped activities with restricted interests. Thus, three main cumulative elements characterize autism: a communication disorder, disruption of social relations, and behavioral disorders.

Autism is a severe developmental neurobiological disorder whose diagnosis is based on behavioral and developmental characteristics. The notion of the spectrum of autistic disorders integrates both well-characterized clinical pictures and more atypical tables, because, on the one hand, of the variability of the symptoms in their severity or the age of their appearance, and on the other hand on the other hand, association with other disorders (retardation of intellectual development, and epilepsy for example).

The manifestations of autism may vary from one child to another and in the same child over time. To date, no single cause has been found for autism, and it is likely that several different causes may lead to development of signs and symptoms of autism. Current research strongly suggests that there are neurological and genetic bases. The idea that autism originates in parent-child relationship disorders must now be totally abandoned.

 

SIGNS AND DIAGNOSIS

Autism is essentially characterized by deficient social interaction. Parents are usually the first to detect the symptoms of autism in their child. Already in the infant stage, a baby with autism may not respond to others or may focus very carefully on one area of interest to the exclusion of others for very long periods of time.

An autistic child may seem to develop normally, then withdraw and become indifferent to any social contact. Many children with autism display reduced sensitivity to pain, but are unusually sensitive to sensations such as sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual sensitivities may result in behavioral symptoms such as resistance to being cuddled or hugged. Other major symptoms include the following:

  • Unconsciousness of the existence of feelings for others.
    Behaves often as if others are not there: does not answer when called, seems not to listen when spoken to, seems to have no emotions, avoids eye contact, does not respond to signs of affection.
  • Needs stability and ritual to reassure oneself.
    Has trouble accepting change even when insignificant, which can cause great crises of anxiety. For example, if an object was changed places on the child’s desktop.
  • The sense of poor social imitation.
    Will not respond to the loving gestures or games of others, regardless of their nature or utility.
  • Difficulty using verbal and non-verbal language to understand or communicate with others.
    The total absence of spoken language or a delay in phrase development, and without compensation by gestures or mimicry.
  • Expressive emotional communication.
    Excitement, anger, self-mutilation, aggression, grumbling and crying appear in frustration while expressing misunderstanding.
  • The incoming communication process.
    Difficulty in comprehending and using language, gestures, and facial expressions correctly. More specifically will laugh while being reprimanded, and/or hops because the situation excites the child.

 

ANY HOPE FOR A SOLUTION?

Medical cannabis, already well known in the treatment of several diseases, could also be effective on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Researchers at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, Israel, conducted a study of 188 children aged 7 to 13 with ASD.
Children were treated with cannabis for medicinal purposes for six months between 2015 and 2017, the majority using cannabis oil containing 30% cannabidiol (CBD) oil and 1.5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Overall, over 80% of parents reported a significant or moderate improvement in their child’s condition.
After 6 months of treatment, patients reported a significant 30% improvement, 53.7%, a moderate improvement, and 15% no improvement, or only mild improvement. 66.8% reported a good quality of life at the end of treatment compared to 31.3% at the start of treatment. Similarly, the positive mood increased by 20%, reaching 63.5% at the end of treatment. Habitual addiction to cannabis has not been evaluated”.

 

THE EFFECTS OF RESEARCH…

Research has shown the efficacy of medicinal cannabis in treating autism as it improves behavior and communication skills. It has also been found that there is a connection between autism and cannabinoid receptors, such as cannabinoid receptors 2 (CB2) and the endocannabinoid system.

In 2016, a study was conducted with a 6-year-old boy diagnosed with this condition. This report has shown that medical cannabis for treating autism can be effective. For 6 months, the child has been treated with THC and has improved his / her illness such as hyperactivity, lethargy, irritability, and inappropriate speech.

In the United States, a study of mice with behavior similar to that of people with autism revealed differences in behavior between the group of mice that took cannabinoids and the other group that did not take anything. The study suggests that medical cannabis to treat autism could reduce some of the symptoms common to this condition including depression or the ability to focus on one’s activity. In a retrospective study, it was shown how cannabinoids can help correct behavioral problems associated with Syndrome X, the most well-known genetic cause of autism.

All of these studies attempt to prove the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating autism. In this regard, Israel, a leading country in therapeutic cannabis research, is implementing a pioneering study of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. In addition, Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem will coordinate five health centers where tests will be conducted with 120 children and adults with autism. They will be treated with a high content of CBD form oils. A similar experience took place in Puerto Rico when in 2015, the story of little Kalel Santiago was made famous. This 9-year-old boy suffered from autism, but his first words were pronounced sometime after taking cannabis oil.

Although there is still a long way to go, studies like that of Dr. Adi Aran, and some things, like the US authorization of Epidiolex (an excerpt from CBD), give hope to many parents whose children have autism. Once again, the CBD will become the spearhead of the fight to legalize medicinal cannabis, as this cannabinoid is proof that this millennial plant has a lot to offer. It is possible that the time to forget the prejudices belonging to the last century has finally arrived.

 

REFERENCES

1. Autism spectrum disorders. who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

2. Characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). aboutkidshealth.ca/Article?contentid=1494&language=English

3. Screening and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

4. Getting diagnosed-Autism. nhs.uk/conditions/autism/diagnosis

5. Use of dronabinol (delta-9-THC) in autism: A prospective single-case-study with an early infantile autistic child. cannabis-med.org/data/pdf/en_2010_04_1.pdf

6. Consequences of Cannabinoid and Monoaminergic System Disruption in a Mouse Model of Autism Spectrum Disorders. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3137184

7. Uncoupling of the endocannabinoid signaling complex in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3657999

8. Use of Cannabis to treat autism. haaretz.com/science-and-health/israeli-doctors-to-study-use-of-cannabis-to-treat-autism-1.5430382.

 


Parents Again Call On Colorado Lawmakers to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Autism


CBS Denver

Originally published on Jan 23, 2019

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