Autism Treatment Alternatives in Children and Adolescents | Cannabis

Autism Treatment Alternatives in ChildrenCannabis Use in Children with Autism, Is It Worth The Risk?

There are no specific studies that have examined the use of cannabis for Autism, but the regular use of cannabis in adolescents has been associated with all kinds of negative outcomes. Short term decreases in working memory, changes in IQ as well as sustained attention and motor coordination. Then there are potential long term effects of altering brain development, increasing risk of addiction, and poor educational outcomes. These diminished life achievements have also been associated with increased risk of psychoses and other chronic mental disorders. All as a result of the use of cannabis or marijuana. Are these risks associated with cannabis worth the benefits to a person or child suffering from Autism?


Cannabis Bias Fact or Fiction?

It isn’t clear how much of these associations are in actuality true, or are, in fact, impacted by biases in the literature. Early literature suggested that there were IQ changes with adolescent use of cannabis, which has proven false with subsequent larger studies. The medical community is unsure as to the differences between medical usage and recreational use of cannabis in regards to the brain in our youth. However cannabis  may increase sociability, heighten perception, give a sensation of slowing time, decrease aggression, and increase appetite (Hadland et al., 2015), all associated with Autism. 


Legality and Medical Requirements for the Use of Cannabis: Autism and Other Disorders

In any case, legal use under the age of 21 varies from state to state, and certain criteria must be met. This includes the presence of a debilitating medical condition, a designated caregiver to provide supervision, and attending physician’s statement that verifies the underlying diagnosis. This certifies that the use of cannabis may mitigate the associated symptoms. The clinician must consider the family’s perspective in the discussions of the risks and benefits of this or really of any treatment. Clinicians should enter into an agreement with the family to monitor efficacy and safety in a systematic way. The caretaker should be provided with numbers to the Poison Control Centers in case of adverse effects, or accidental ingestion, and the family should also be counseled about potential legal implications.

The implications of cannabis for children and adolescents in the treatment of Autism are still unknown and further research is needed to evaluate the risks versus the gains.

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