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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a widespread developmental disability with many unknown variables. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1 in 160 children suffer worldwide from ASD, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA state that the numbers are closer to 1 in 68 children, and its prevalence is climbing while we still scramble to study and treat it. The disorder is incurable, difficult to study, and treatment has been limited to symptom relief with mixed results. New studies on Cannabidiol (CBD) and Autism provide hope for those living with ASD. 

Autism is a spectrum of disorders that range from gifted and highly functioning to severely and functionally disabled. The disorder can cause severe “social, communication, and behavioral challenges” and can manifest in children as uncontrollable behavior. Although there is much to learn about ASD, scientists conclude that there is a strong genetic component for the disorder, that certain drugs – such as thalidomide or valproic acid taken by a pregnant women can cause ASD in the developing fetus, and that older women giving birth have a greater incidence of children with ASD, among other possible causes.  

To date doctors are unable to diagnose ASD through laboratory procedures or blood tests and must assess behavior and development under a set of guidelines to identify the disorder. Caregivers note developmental delays, lack of eye contact, inability by the child to interact or bond with others, and unawareness of social cues, among a gamut of other signs. Concerned parents should ask for referral to specialists such as Developmental Pediatricians, Child Neurologists, Psychologists or Psychiatrists for aid in diagnosis and recommendations of therapy and treatment. 


Autism Spectrum Disorder treatment focuses on providing relief from symptoms: hyperactivity, inability to focus, mood swings and depression, or seizures. Types of treatment not only include medication, but also behavioral therapy such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, dietary management, and alternative holistic therapy; current research provides strong evidence that CBD is also a viable therapeutic agent for Autism. 

Therapeutic Benefits of CBD 

In a preliminary study published in April (Neurology, 2018), a team of Israeli doctors used a 20:1 titration of CBD: THC to treat 60 children with ASD – between the ages of 11 to 12 years of age, 77% low functioning, 83% boys. Improvement rates in the major ASD Behavioral Indices were highly significant. 

Improvement percentages: 

  • Behavioral Outbreaks were reduced by 61% 
  • Anxiety was reduced by 39% 
  • Communication increased by 47% 
  • Disruptive Behaviors were reduced by 29% 
  • Parental Stress improved by 33% 

Adverse side effects were limited: 14% – sleep disturbances, 9% irritability and loss of appetite. As a preliminary study, this research is highly promising for utilizing CBD to control otherwise resistant behavioral problems in children with severe and limiting ASD. 

Multiple studies in neuroscience indicate a strong correlation between autism and the endocannabinoid system (ECS); in fact, 4 observable human characteristics controlled by the ECS are notably abnormal in ASD: 1) social reward responsivity; 2) neural development; 3) circadian rhythm; and 4) anxiety-related symptoms. From an article published in Neurotherapeutics (2015), the authors conclude that  

..the potential therapeutic exploitation of distinct elements of this system (e.g., receptor targets, biosynthetic and hydrolytic enzymes, and transmembrane/intracellular transporters) ..[for treatment of Autism].. seems immense.  

Multiple scientific research teams – representing a diversity of medical fields – now study Cannabidiol as a novel and promising therapeutic agent. Although CBD may have trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (no more than 0.3%) from the extraction process, it has zero psychoactive properties, is non-reactive, and non-toxic. Its interaction with serotonin receptors suggest a potential for stress and anxiety reduction – and indeed, anecdotal evidence as well as mouse and dog studies show this to be the case. Numerous studies now show efficacy in treatment of seizures, and in June of 2018, the FDA approved the use of Epidiolex, the first CBD drug to be used legally in the treatment of rare and severe forms of epilepsy. 

According to Project CBD, a California non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and publicize CBD research for medical application, 

extensive preclinical research.. ..indicates potent anti-tumoral, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. 

In fact, scientists from the field of neuroscience are studying CBD in search of therapeutic agents for treatment of dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. Studies of CBD therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis and degenerative Osteoarthritis are ongoing, due to its anti-inflammatory effects. 

In short, Cannabidiol has nearly unlimited potential to treat a multitude of disorders and disease. The evidence for its efficacy in treating Autism is just the tip of the iceberg. Please feel free to contact us at TerraVida Online to learn more about CBD applications for your needs. 

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