Does CBD Treat Autism?

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2014, approximately 1 in 59 children in the  United States could be identified as having autism.

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is a general condition of several disorders which affect brain development and are caused by a mix of genetic mutations and environmental factors. The disorders are characterized by repetitive behaviors, intellectual disability, hyperactivity, difficulties in social communication, anxiety, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.

The characteristics of autism vary across the spectrum and affect each afflicted individual differently. Despite this, there are specific symptoms which commonly occur in all cases. They include:

  • Difficulty in understanding nonverbal communication including gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions.
  • Difficulty in expressing or recognizing emotions and people’s intentions
  • Difficulty in seeking emotional comfort.
  • Feeling overwhelmed in social situations.
  • Inability to accurately gauge the appropriate distance between people
  • Repetitive body movements such as; running back and forth,  rocking, flapping and spinning.
  • Need for regular routines characterized by strong resistance to change.

Researchers believe that some of the developmental changes in the brain which are associated with autism also contribute to seizures. These differences in brain development affect the activity of brain nerve cells or neurons, and this disturbance may result in seizures.

Although the relationship between autism and epilepsy has been well established, it only serves to heighten the critical nature of the condition as seizures are not as evident as autism and so may pose certain challenges to proper diagnosis.

CBD and Autism

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for autism. However, CBD with its immense therapeutic abilities has recently provided a beacon of hope to individuals affected by this disorder.

Although there is no concrete or conclusive scientific evidence to prove that CBD is an effective treatment for autism or epilepsy, a lot of research is being conducted to back the claims of its efficacy in alleviating some symptoms of the disorder.

The results of a retrospective study which assessed the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) based medical cannabis, as adjuvant therapy, for refractory behavioral problems in children with ASD showed that behavioral outbreaks, anxiety, disruptive behaviors, and communication problems improved following the application of CBD-based treatment.

It has been proven that brain cells from the individuals with autism are often deficient in signs of a normal breakdown pathway called “autophagy”; a device used by cells to break down components including synapse connections. There are reasons to believe that the CB2 receptors which are blocked by autism are opened up when exposed to cannabis, allowing molecules to act on them.

In essence, CBD’s interaction with the body’s cannabidiol receptors serves to open up pathways in the brain of an autistic individual, which were otherwise closed off by the condition; an effect which may effectively restore normal autophagy.


The research available is insufficient for us to conclude that CBD is an effective treatment option for autism, however, since CBD affects everyone differently, it may be helpful to experiment and see if CBD helps. It is advisable to consult a reputable physician before administering CBD-based treatments for autism.

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