“It seemed like a miracle,” Marie Myung-Ok Lee said when her autistic son became the first medical cannabis patient in Rhode Island at 9-years old. After witnessing her son struggle with his form of autism that included violent rages and self-harming, their approach to medical cannabis “left him clear-eyed and alert, without the constant pain-furrow in his brow or the off-the-wall rages.”
Marie’s story is among the growing group of brave and dedicated parents who are breaking through stigma around cannabis and emerging as strong advocates for access to medical cannabis for their autistic children.
A Look at Autism in the United States
Autism is a developmental disorder that is affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States, making it the fastest growing mental disorder in the country. Prevalence of autism is growing.
Medical communities are at a loss at finding a definite cause for autism, but it’s believed to be a result of genetic and environmental factors. Children who are diagnosed with a form of autism are usually placed on a “spectrum”, as there is a wide array of behavioral and communication challenges, as well as strengths and exceptionalities, that individuals with autism possess.
The most common treatment for children with autism is antipsychotic medications, but these medications are producing negative side effects for children, including lethargy, tremors, focus issues, depression and weight gain.
Autistic children are being robbed of their childhood, not because of their autism, but because of the strong pharmaceuticals that are so-called “treating” their autism.
Parents need alternatives for their children, and are turning to cannabis.
Can Cannabis Be the Key to Unlocking Autism?
For hope on the research front, we look to Israel. The country, which legalized medical cannabis in 1992, is light-years ahead of the U.S. in terms of clinical research into cannabis, with 110 cannabis clinical trials currently happening.
Dr. Adi Aran, a neurologist in Jerusalem is now engaged in a clinical study observing how cannabis oil affects the behavior and communication of 120 low- to medium- functioning autistic individuals ranging from 5 to 29.
His clinical study comes after observing very positive outcomes during an observational study that saw improvements in behaviors and communications in his autistic patients with cannabis oil. This study, expected to wrap in 2018, will hopefully add fuel to the research into cannabis for autism fire in the United States.
The scientific promise of cannabis and autism, like most medical conditions and brain disorders, is held within the endocannabinoid system. The very basic discourse for autism centers around how cannabidiol (CBD) can help improve brain function and repair cells in the brain.
Parent Advocates Come out in Droves
Parents like Marie are banding together in support of access to cannabis for their autistic children, knowing that the secret to unlocking some of the complexities in their children’s behaviors is in the miracle plant.
Examples of national efforts for advocacy include Mothers Advocating for Medical Marijuana for Autism, which wants to see autism as a nationally recognized condition for medical marijuana – with children eligible for access.
Such efforts will focus on removing the stigma, and removing cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, so that their children, and their families, can experience a healthy and happy childhood.