Under U.S. federal law, CBD products manufactured from industrial hemp are legal as long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. And in some states, CBD oil is permitted to contain up to 5 percent THC.
Some research has shown that recreational marijuana use beginning in one’s teenage years can have negative long-term effects on cognition 11 . But experts note that the dosages used for medical purposes are often quite lower than those used in a recreational context.
Based on the clinical trials of Epidiolex, the FDA warns that the drug could cause elevated liver enzymes, which can be a sign of liver damage. This is especially likely in people who take Epidiolex and the epilepsy drug valproate at the same time.
Cannabis’ active ingredients are thought to exert their effects by binding to proteins called cannabinoid receptors in the brain: THC activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors, whereas CBD seems to block them 2 .
Many studies have shown that cannabis treatment carries only minor side effects such as sedation or restlessness, but these studies have not looked at long-term side effects. Researchers still don’t have a solid grasp on how the active ingredients in marijuana actually affect the brain, nor do they know how these compounds might impact a child or teenager’s developing brain or interact with other medications.
Take careful notes of any changes you see yourself so you can easily review your records to determine how helpful the new treatment really is and keep an eye open for any troubling side effects. Be sure to communicate any side effects to a doctor or healthcare professional immediately.
Claims for CBD range from the realistic to the absurd. Some websites and companies claim, for example, that CBD can cure cancer (it can’t). On the other hand, CBD does seem to alleviate some untractable symptoms of disorders such as epilepsy, sleeplessness, and anxiety—all common issues for people with autism. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications.”
The results of the study were encouraging. Most of the children involved saw improvement in anxiety, anger, and hyperactivity.
Currently, there is some evidence that CBD can help to alleviate specific symptoms and improve behavior in children and adults on the autism spectrum, but research into the safety and efficacy of CBD is in its earliest stages.
Additional studies have provided similar results: CBD has proved to be helpful in a majority of cases in lessening emotional and behavioral issues and can even help to improve social communication skills. These preliminary findings, along with the low incidence of significant side effects, are very encouraging. Studies are ongoing in clinics and research centers around the world.
In general, it’s best to start with a lower dosage. In fact, studies of CBD for other disorders such as migraine suggest that a lower dose may be more effective.
Neither CBD nor any other drug can remove or cure core symptoms of autism, which include social communication challenges, sensory dysfunction, and restricted, repetitive behaviors. CBD can, however, help to alleviate disorders often associated with autism such as epilepsy, anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress.
10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & statistics on autism spectrum disorder. Accessed May 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Anandamide causes inhibition of the release of neurotransmitters such as glutamate and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). It also affects norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, histamine, prostaglandins and opioids. 9 An imbalance in the GABA and glutamate system is often linked with autism.
31. Hollander E. Cannabidivarin (CBDV) vs. placebo in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Updated February 18, 2021. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03202303
Different strains of cannabis have diverse chemical variations, according to Donald Abrams, MD, an integrative oncologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. 35 Products with higher amounts of THC, for example, are often used to treat cancer-related nausea and poor appetite, while CBD tends to be used for chronic pain, inflammation, and insomnia. Abrams also pointed out that NIDA’s supply included mostly low-THC, zero-CBD strains, which can challenge researchers struggling to move with the times and study emerging products on the market. NIDA’s focus on substance abuse also means it is more focused on the negatives of cannabis, rather than any potential benefit.
4. Pertwee RG. The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. Br J Pharmacol. 2008;153(2):199-215.
7. Agarwal R, Burke SL, Maddux M. Current state of evidence of cannabis utilization for treatment of autism spectrum disorders. BMC Psychiatry. 2019;19:328.