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I don’t push cures, you won’t ever see me claiming to have found the cure for my sons’ Autism or their symptoms. What you will see me do, from time to time, is share what I have found to have some success with managing some of their more challenging behaviors. Autism itself, is not a behavioral disorder, it’s a social-relational disorder. Co-morbid conditions coupled with deficits in communication can result in socially unacceptable behaviors and aggression.
Note, I said “socially.” Society dictates what acceptable behavior is, and what it isn’t. What is and isn’t “normal.” I don’t care if my son flaps incessantly, he’s part-Angel, that’s what they do. I do care if he’s in so much pain or frustrated or anxious that he beats himself upside the head and scratches his hair out. I care that my son runs away from school or destroys a classroom because his anxiety is so severe that he cannot think of another way to communicate that he’s in crisis.
Those are the behaviors I work on. Those are the behaviors that I attempt to address. And I utilize a variety of interventions in addition to medications. However, there was a time when my boys were on multiple prescription medications (3 or more each) and the side effects were worse than any behavior it was attempting to address. And so, I went looking for alternatives, not cures, but better ways to unlock my children’s potential while still maintaining their sense of self.
I stripped them down to no prescription medication (with the exception of Aidan’ sleep med), and I revamped their therapeutic programs and interventions. For example, Josiah doesn’t do ABA, he does social skills training, groups, talk therapy, and some others. If there is a way for him to manage his anxiety without relying on medication, I am going to work toward that end.
Until that day comes however, I sought out more natural ways to assist with behavior management. Enter CBD oil. Since my boys have been on CBD oil they still have challenging behaviors but they are relatively calmer and easier to redirect. This is not a cure, and your child isn’t going to change overnight.
Before you start CBD oil…
know that CBD oil alone will be of no use to your child in the long run, he will need therapy and other interventions as well. Make sure that there are no underlying medical issues that could be the cause of more severe behaviors. Aidan wouldn’t even respond that well to the CBD oil because his stomach issues were too great, but now that we are addressing GI issues as well, he is doing better with the oil.
What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the Cannabis Sativa plant, which is also where hemp and marijuana come from. Pulled from the resin of cannabis buds and diluted with another oil. CBD oil contains less than .3% of THC. THC gives you that “high” feeling. As of my writing this post, CBD is legal in all 50 states.
The Science behind CBD oil and Autism.
I know there are several ppl out there who try things simply because others have said that it works, and that’s fine. I mean, isn’t buying something that has five stars better than something that has two? As consumers, we place a lot of value in the reviews of other consumers. However, it’s also important to do your own research. Knowing why CBD oil might work for your child (or yourself) is just as important (if not, more important) as knowing that it has worked for others.
The Endocannabinoid System.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a relatively recent discovery (early 90s). It’s a modulatory system responsible for maintaining homeostasis. It’s receptors are found throughout our bodies and serve to regulate many of our bodily functions including, but not limited to: pain, appetite, emotion, mood, sleep, digestion, and more.
Our ECS works with precision, with its receptors only working to regulate imbalance where needed. Several recent studies (see below for links) have shown that it is likely that the ECS of those with Autism is impaired, resulting in an imbalance that can cause some problems in digestion, mood, anxiety, and more.
Both Marijuana and CBD work on our body’s endocannabinoid system (responsible for helping us adapt to stressors). Two types of cannabinoids: endo and phyto. Endo we produce naturally within our bodies and phyto comes from a plant, and thus mimics endocannabinoids, making this an attractive supplement. They provide an excess of cannabinoids or make up for underproduction (according to some studies, those with Autism have an underproduction of endocannabinoids).
Cannabinoids are found throughout the body, in every system. This could be why many promote them as cure-all. They won’t cure or even heal all that ails you, but there are several functions within our bodies they help regulate (mitochondrial, metabolism, neurotransmitter, etc).
Bonus fact: the human body’s Endocannabinoid System is named after the Cannabinoids from the marijuana plant. It was found that cannabinoids in the plant work in the same manner as those in the body.
CBD oil and the ECS.
Because cannabis products act on the ECS, stimulating it’s activity, this makes it an attractive target for pharmacological treatment of those with Autism. Recall that CBD is not psychoactive as it does not contain THC, so one gets the benefits without the high? This also increases its attractiveness.
So the CBD oil works by activating a dysregulated ECS and restoring the balance, significantly reducing and/or eliminating the issues caused by the imbalance. Being that the system is a new find to science, there isn’t this extensive body of work on the connection between the ECS and Autism, but what has been conducted is promising. So before you think “fad,” know there’s more to this than anecdotes from mom groups, there’s some real science behind it.
According to the World Health Organization, CBD oil is safe for pretty much everyone. I’m no doctor, so check with yours first.
There are several studies that show that CBD can help with reducing anxiety to pain management. Improvements in mood disorders and GI health improvement has been noted in several studies as well. Studies on seizures have been conducted as well with some promising results.
CBD oil, like most (probably all) medications and supplements, there can be side effects, they are generally dependent on dosing and mild in nature. Vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, bloating, and nausea can occur.
This concludes your crash course in CBD oil. If this sounds like something you are interested in, keep reading. If you need to mull it over a bit, still keep reading, lol.
Choosing the Right CBD Oil Company.
Many parents message me about CBD oil and want to know more information and I’m more than happy to help, but ultimately, you will make the best decision for you and your child. I will say this, research the company you are looking to purchase from. Look for one that conducts third party testing, uses only the best ingredients (non-GMO and organic), and if possible, look for a company that has multiple methods of ingestion. You might love their products in general, and their prices, but your child can only do specific products. Your child might not take to the oil, but perhaps they will love the gummies.
Currently, we use two different CBD oil companies, Lazarus Naturals (LN) and Enjoy Remedies (ER). Both of them have great products, but one (LN) doesn’t carry gummies. My youngest prefers the gummies and ER carries gummies but does not carry “high” potentcy oil. ER also has flavors my oldest finds more tolerable. Sometimes you have to search around a bit until you find the right company for your needs.
How I give my sons their doses.
For it to be the most effective, the oil is to be administered under the tongue and held there for about 30 seconds (or is it a minute? don’t quote me on that, it should say on the packaging). This allows for it to absorb into the body. One can see how this present a challenge for my child with Autism who only eats and drinks certain foods and beverages. I see many posts from parents who mix their child’s oil in liquid, but then state that most of it gets stuck to the cup. Or it tastes too horrible for their child.
1. Oil and water (based) liquids don’t mix. At all. You’re on the right track but just switch to a fatty beverage, like milk or a smoothie. The oil will blend well into the drink.
2. Flavors matter. If it tastes bad, your child most likely won’t consume it, no matter what you mix it in. This is why I like ER products, my kids have no issues taking the strawberry and vanilla flavors. My verbal son says that “don’t taste that bad.”
For my oldest who is very picky about what goes in his mouth, I mix his LN oil into vanilla bean coconut ice cream. Any ice cream will do, as long as they like the flavor, or ice cream in general. Don’t run out and buy a pint of ice cream and your child doesn’t even like ice cream. I mix the oil into a spoonful of the ice cream and I give it to him that way. He gobbles it right up. And because of the high fat content in the ice cream, the oil doesn’t stick to anything else but the ice cream (if you blended it well). Yogurt should work as well.
While in Washington D.C. I figured out quickly that we weren’t going to be able to give him ice cream at the times he needed to take them, and given that they take some time to work, I decided that maybe I would administer them in a way that would have him munch on them throughout the day. I thought of CBD gummies and in the past, my son HATED those, but you know what he did love? Sour Patch Kids. So I put his dose into the Sour Patch Kids gummies. I let them absorb and then I put them in a container. You could definitely smell them, lol. I worried he would not eat them, but he did.
Josiah can tolerate the oil and take it as intended, but only if it tastes decent. He will take to the gummies much better than Aidan, so I prefer to give him CBD gummies. I will include the links below to both Enjoy Remedies and Lazarus Naturals.
I followed this guideline for dosing when I first started and I still stick to it. I give my boys doses twice per day. And it takes about an hour for it to kick in for Josiah and about 1.5 to 2 hours for Aidan.
If you are looking for a great company to start with, I highly recommend Enjoy Remedies CBD. I have placed links (images) to their site throughout this post. This is who we currently use and we are greatly satisfied.
Where to purchase CBD oil:
Lazarus Naturals. They now have free 3-day shipping. Also they have discounts for veterans and the disabled (Autism is included). You will have to show documentation of disability, but the process is quick and easy.
Enjoy Remedies. They have really tasty oils and they have CBD gummies. If you would like to give them a try I have a couple code (2dollops) you can use to save 15% on your order. This company is vegan, conducts 3rd party testing, a great variety of products to choose from (oils, gummies, and vaporizers), and they have a Give Back Program that provides access to those who have barriers to obtaining CBD. A portion of your purchase goes to this program for families, individuals, and veterans.
Both companies have “education” links on their sites to provide more information on CBD, how it works, the Endocannabinoid system, etc.
Krueger, D. & Brose, N. (2013). Evidence for a Common Endocannabinoid-Related Pathomechanism in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Neuron, Vol. 78, Iss. 3, p. 408-410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.04.030
Rothwell, P., Fuccillo, M., Maxeiner, S., Hayton, S., Gokce, O., KookLim, B., Fowler, S., Malenka, R., & Sudhof, T. (2014). Autism-Associated Neuroligin-3 Mutations Commonly Impair Striatal Circuits to Boost Repetitive Behaviors. Cell, Vol. 158, Iss. 1, p. 198-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.04.045
Rubino T., Zamberletti E., Parolaro D. (2015) Endocannabinoids and Mental Disorders. In: Pertwee R. (eds) Endocannabinoids. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, vol 231. Springer, Cham
Wei, D., Allsop, S., Tye, K., Piomelli, D. (2017). Endocannabinoid Signaling in the Control of Social Behavior. Trends in Neuroscience, Vol. 40, Iss. 7, p. 385-396. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2017.04.005Click any of the images throughout this post and use code 2dollops at checkout for 15% off.
this was a lot to read and take in, but nothing frustrates me more than people just doing stuff because others are doing it and they aren’t asking the right questions, or any questions. What does this do? How exactly does it work? What bodily systems is it designed to affect? What can happen as a result of it working properly? Or improperly? What is the science behind the medicine? Why do you think it will work for this particular issue? And on and on, my kid’s doctors probably groan when they see an upcoming appointment from us, lol. So I felt it best to provide as much information as I could and as always, I’m here with any questions you may have. 🙂