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CBD Oil for Asperger’s Syndrome: Can It Help?
Research is being carried out on CBD oil to treat numerous conditions like cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, acid reflux, and Asperger syndrome.
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism and one in the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) group. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ASD affects 1 in 59 children. ASD is a group of disabilities in development that cause communication, behavioral and social challenges. People with ASD do not look any different from other people, but their interaction, communication, and learning abilities are different.
Their problem-solving, thinking, and learning abilities range from the severely challenged to the exceptionally gifted. None of the ASD cases is similar to the other, which means you can only manage the symptoms case-by-case.
ASD diagnosis includes other conditions that were once separately diagnosed, i.e., Asperger Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and autistic disorder. All these disorders are now classified as ASDs.
In this article, we shall look at Asperger Syndrome, the condition symptoms and the potential benefits of using CBD oil to alleviate symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, and the research that backs up its use.
Signs and Symptoms of Asperger Syndrome
In the Autism Spectrum, Asperger’s Syndrome is high functioning. Aspergians (individuals with Asperger’s) suffer from various impairments. Their challenges are primarily social, but they can also have motor skills challenges.
Aspergians are characterized by:
- Artistic or intellectual interest
- Delay in motor development
- Speech Differences
- Poorly developed social skills
- Development of psychological issues that may be harmful
- Keen on details
- Lack of social drive
- High sense of integrity
- Masters at sticking to routines
Treatment of Asperger Syndrome
The conventional treatment for Asperger Syndrome (AS) is the coordination of therapies that cater to the disorder’s three core signs: Repetitive routines, poor communication skills, and clumsiness. Although there is no treatment per se for the condition, professionals agree that the earlier you get intervention for the child, the better.
An appropriate, effective program builds on the Aspergians interest, has predictability, teaches the child tasks in simple steps, engages the Aspergians attention via structured activities, and provides regular behavior reinforcement. This includes CBT (Cognitive behavior therapy), social skills training, medicines for other coexisting conditions, etc.
The Connection of CBD and Asperger’s Syndrome
There is ongoing research on CBD oil being used to treat Asperger Syndrome and other ASDs. CBD oil may help alleviate some of the symptoms, including anxiety, stress, repetitive behaviors, and improved social communication.
Does CBD Oil Help With Asperger’s Syndrome?
Cannabidiol or CBD is a cannabinoid compound naturally found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. CBD is in one category with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it does not produce a “high” effect. Different cannabis plants contain various concentrations of the two cannabinoids. Hemp, aka Cannabis Sativa, contains more concentrates of CBD, while THC concentrates are higher in Marijuana or Cannabis Indica.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently declassified CBD as a controlled substance. This means that the research done is a bit limited. However, there is research confirming the anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and analgesic benefits of Cannabidiols.
Researchers have not yet proven whether CBD can cure medical conditions. However, CBD has shown extraordinary efficacy for alleviating anxiety and sleep disorders, common symptoms for people with ASDs.
Aspergians often go undiagnosed because they are intelligent and have good verbal skills. However, most get anxiety, depression, and stress due to their lack of social skills. More anecdotal evidence shows CBD may help with sensory issues, insomnia, depression, and other symptoms Aspergians suffer from.
What Research Says
As mentioned, cannabis was removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act only recently, so researches on medical cannabis are at their early stages. It has been challenging to get approval or funding for cannabis research. CBD is not legal in all 50 US states. Besides, the federal law still considers marijuana (including medical) and its derivatives illegal.
With the success of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug for epilepsy derived from cannabis, there is increasing support for research on CBD and its efficacy in autism. More evidence is backed by research that pure CBD and CBD-enhanced Cannabis Sativa works in Autistic patients with seizures, ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), sleep disorders, etc.
Some researchers turn to medical marijuana for AS because prescription medication for ASD, especially Risperidone, has severe side effects. These effects affect the mind, body, and behavior, sometimes causing violent outbursts. This proves there is a need for functional ASD treatment with no side effects.
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, children with autism have more cannabinoid receptors in their white blood cells. This suggests an imbalance in their ECSs (endocannabinoid systems).
It is almost impossible to measure these endocannabinoid levels as the compounds are produced on demand and broken down immediately. By treating the imbalance in cannabinoid receptors using CBD, it’s possible to restore balance. This addresses the main issue and alleviates some of the behavioral and mood problems suffered by Aspergians.
How the Endocannabinoid System Works
Every human has an endocannabinoid system. The ECS governs how we experience the psychoactive or intoxicating properties of cannabis. The ECS regulates our bodies and helps us maintain internal balance or homeostasis.
When our bodies achieve homeostasis, our performance is at its peak. The demand for inner balance means the ECS is active in reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals. Stress, pain, cardiovascular function, appetite, energy, sleep, reproduction, etc., are just some of the processes ECS is active in.
The human ECS is made up of:
- Cannabinoid receptors
- Enzymes that break these two down
The ECS is found in our nervous system, immune cells, spinal cord, and in all the cells in our bodies. Our skin also has cannabinoid receptors.
Researchers from Stanford University in 2018 revealed in a study published in Molecular Autism that autistic children have lower levels of anandamide than other children without autism. Anandamide is one of the brain’s endocannabinoids.
Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, the two common ones being anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Scientists became aware of anandamide in the 1990s, but more research is needed to understand it more. Its origins are from “Ananda,” a Sanskrit word that means happiness or eternal bliss.
Anandamide balances the neurotransmitter messages exchanged between the brain cells. Lack of this compound means the cells send too many messages. The basis of autism treatment using cannabis is to reduce the number of messages in the brain cells.
A 2018 Israel study published in Neurology.org examined how oral CBD and THC affected 60 children with autism. The researchers noted an excellent improvement in behavioral outbursts in 61% of the children after treatment.
Less than half the children had significant improvement in anxiety and communication. In both cases, they had a limited sample size and only tested one cannabis variety. This means the results were not conclusive. However, scientists were optimistic about the study and conducted a clinical study with double the initial number of kids.
How CBD Helps People with AS
Although we have mentioned how CBD helps people with AS, we shall look at it in detail. CBD helps in:
Reducing Seizure Frequency and Severity
Approximately up to 45% of Aspergians have seizures by the time they are adults. Reducing the frequency of these seizures and their severity is a significant part of managing AS. Some studies have suggested that CBD may help reduce seizures. As mentioned, the FDA has approved a pharmaceutical drug-Epidiolex to treat seizures in patients with rare forms of epilepsy. The drug consists of 99% pure CBD and comes in the form of an oral spray. However, it is available on prescription only.
Boosts Anandamide Production
As mentioned, anandamide is one of the human body’s significant endocannabinoids. It is synthesized in the brain area, managing cognitive processes like pleasure and reward, improving your mood. People with AS have low anandamide, dopamine, and serotonin levels.
CBD may boost anandamide levels, prevent the breakdown of anandamide and increase its release rate. This improves mood and regulates cognitive processes in anxious or stressful moments.
Improve Social Behavior
Aspergians are probably most associated with a lack of social skills. People with Asperger’s syndrome may experience social dysfunction, anxiety, inability to read and respond to obvious social cues, and inability to communicate effectively.
There is not much clinical research into CBD’s effects on people with AS and autism. However, this anecdotal evidence may offer some insights.
Stress and Anxiety Relief
Early studies show that CBD may have the potential to relieve anxiety symptoms. CBD encourages serotonin production, reduces inflammation and muscle tension, and improves sleep patterns.
Research also suggests that CBD interacts positively with the part of your brain concerned with integrating cognitive data, including emotions. This makes CBD effective in treating stress and anxiety.
According to studies, CBD modulates GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production. GABA is an amino acid that plays the role of a neurotransmitter. It may help you relax by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate due to overstimulation of the brain, helping the body and mind relax.
Fighting Addictive Behavior
One of the most prevalent traits in people with AS is addictive or obsessive behavior. This usually happens with stimulating activities like playing a video game, toy, or watching TV. People with AS can get engrossed in a single object or task. They cannot concentrate on anything else, even when prompted to do so.
Medics believe this happens because of a dysfunction in dopamine (feel-good hormone) release. In most people with AS, their dopamine levels are deficient. CBD helps to improve dopamine release, allowing the person to experience the natural body response without too much stimulation.
Treatment of Psychological Issues
People with AS often experience mood disorders such as bipolar, psychosis, or depression. These conditions are tied to the level of serotonin in their brains. Clinical trials have indicated that CBD can be used to reduce the overactivity of the serotonin receptors. It has a similar effect with lithium, a mood-stabilizing medication. CBD may help treat psychosis disorders like schizophrenia.
What are the Pros and Cons of Using CBD for Asperger Syndrome?
CBD is not a cure for Asperger’s syndrome. However, there are numerous benefits for using it to manage various symptoms.
Federal Law states that broad-spectrum or whole CBD extracts should not contain over 0.3% THC, the psychoactive agent that gives people a “high” effect. People with Asperger Syndrome should ensure they use these extracts or isolated CBD.
Higher THC levels could be harmful to Aspergians. THC has lower anandamide levels, and as mentioned earlier, people with AS have low anandamide levels. This could worsen their situation instead of improving. THC is harmful to people with psychosis or other similar conditions. As these conditions often accompany the symptoms of AS, it is crucial to stay away from THC.
How to Use CBD for Asperger Syndrome
You can use CBD in various ways. How you take CBD will determine how fast it gets into your bloodstream to feel its effects. Let’s look at the different ways to use CBD.
Sublingual Drops Consumption
One way to use CBD is to put it under your tongue or sublingually. When you take CBD sublingually, it bypasses your digestive system and goes straight into your bloodstream via the capillaries under the tongue. You will feel the effects within minutes, making it an excellent way to take CBD for managing sudden onsets of anxiety or stress during social interactions.
Only adults can do vaping. Vaping has the safe effect of sublingual consumption. The CBD also bypasses the digestion and metabolism stage as it enters the bloodstream via the lungs. This also manages sudden symptom onset.
CBD is inhaled via a vape pen or vaporizer. Vape oils are more popular with most people who find inhaling CBD more relaxing. The flavoring of the vape oils is also another reason why vaping oils are popular. Vaping CBD delivers more CBD into your body.
You can consume CBD oils in the form of a capsule, gummy, or infused in food. This method takes longer as CBD has to go through the digestive system to feel its effects. This makes it a better option for daily consumption to keep AS in check. However, you may want to supplement it with vaping or sublingual consumption for optimal effects.
How to Choose CBD Oil for Asperger’s Syndrome
CBD laws vary from state to state. CBD with less than 0.3 percent THC is legal under federal law. However, the law prohibits marketing CBD as a dietary supplement or infused in food.
The FDA does not regulate most CBD on the market today. Most states have developed their own rules and regulations, which differ from state to state. Some things to look out for include:
- Confirm the local laws in your home state before buying CBD.
- When purchasing CBD oil for AS, ensure to buy from a reputable CBD company.
- Confirm that it has third-party testing for quality and purity.
- Choose a company that is transparent in its extraction process and ingredients used.
The most common CBD extraction methods are CO2 and Ethanol extraction. The CO2 Extraction method uses carbon dioxide under low temperatures and high pressure. Most consumers prefer this method as it preserves the CBD’s purity. However, this process requires costly equipment, meaning not many manufacturers use it.
In Ethanol extraction, the cannabis plant is soaked in ethanol to draw the CBD and cannabinoid out. The plant is extracted and the solution filtered further, then refined to remove the solvent. This method is low-cost, efficient, and more common among manufacturers.
When a company employs a third-party tester, it indicates the purity and quality of the CBD. A CBD manufacturer should not just say they use third-party testing; there needs to be some proof. They must indicate what they test for and the results of the tests.
Third-party testing involves sending product samples to a lab for cannabinoid and terpene, solvents, heavy metals, or other contaminants. Third-party testing is not a law requirement, so it’s for you to do some due diligence before purchasing.
Other factors when choosing a CBD for As include:
Choose a CBD product with low or zero THC levels but high in CBD when selecting a CBD oil. The CBD should not have more than 0.3% THC levels to be on the safe side of federal law.
Isolate or Full Spectrum
Researchers are still undertaking studies to understand the endocannabinoid system and how CBD can balance the deficiency in autistic people. However, choose full-spectrum CBD products because they contain flavonoids and terpenes, which add the user more benefits.
We do not have proper guidelines as to the appropriate CBD dosage for Asperger’s syndrome patients. Multiple factors such as body weight, autism severity, etc., can determine doses, among other factors. The best way is to go for a trial-and-error approach – starting with a low dosage and increasing slowly until you get your optimal dosage.
Concentration refers to the CBD level found in a CBD oil, compared with various compounds. These oils are very condensed and potent. A concentrate allows you to get a significant dose of CBD that will start working immediately.
Researchers are still researching the benefits of CBD in managing various health conditions, including Asperger’s Syndrome. As earlier stated, the FDA has approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug to treat rare forms of seizures in children. As such, it is best to consult your doctor if you wish to try CBD to manage your AS symptoms. As scientists keep looking for a cure for Asperger Syndrome and other conditions in the Autism Spectrum, we can only use CBD to manage AS symptoms.