Before you crucify me, let me say I recognize this is a controversial issue. I do hope you read this fully and watch the video below. It will explain why I have quietly watched the issue of medicinal cannabis use for the treatment of severe autism symptoms for a long time. It will explain why I secretly cheered when a Marijuana oil bill cleared the last hurdle in Virginia legislature . My home state is working to make it easier for people with severe forms of epilepsy to legally seek treatment. I am hopeful one day those with Autism may benefit as well.
I usually avoid controversial issues. I did not do that today. Today I stepped out of the proverbial closet. I publicly made my opinion known when I read and responded to an autism blog that posted MEDICAL CANNABIS & AUTISM – YOU ASKED MY OPINION (THE BLOG I’VE BEEN AVOIDING). While my last comment is awaiting moderation there I decided to share my response here.
Someone replied: Cheri, I was asking Anna for clarification by what she meant by “severely affected”. Since you have a specific case. then I can ask you the question directly; how would your daughter’s autism be improved by “medicinal cannabis oil”? Autism is currently described as a condition affecting two functions of the brain; (1) social communication, and (2) restrictive interests and repetitive behavior. Do these two conditions need to be treated, and how is marijuana going to “help”.
My reply: There are severity levels for autism spectrum disorder. you can see the DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria Table 2: Severity levels for autism spectrum disorder for yourself at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria
Autism is called a spectrum disorder for a reason. My son is on the spectrum. He would be at level 1. At a level 1 he requires minimal support. My daughter is also on the spectrum. She is at a level 3. At a severity level 3 she requires very substantial support. I won’t divulge her personal details.. because.. to put it frankly it’s none of your business. However, I will quote DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Autism in table 2 Level 3 Communication: Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning… Level 3 Restricted, repetitive behaviors: Inflexibility of behavior, extreme difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres. Great distress/difficulty changing focus or action.
Now to answer your questions: (1)Do these two conditions need to be treated, and (2)how is marijuana going to “help”
(1) In my daughter’s case (level 3) the answer is yes and it is no for my son (level 1)
My daughter is currently prescribed psychotropic medications through her pediatric psychiatrist. Through blood work the level of one medication has to be monitored carefully and adjusted so that the least amount possible is used to be effective. A medicine that carries a black-box warning because it can cause serious liver damage that could be fatal, especially in children. I hate it. But she can not safely function without it.
(2) Will medicinal cannabis help her? I do not know if it would or not. But I would like to see her be able to legally and under medical supervision be given the chance to try. It has been shown to be very effective for other children. Cannabis helps ameliorate symptoms, especially the most severe symptoms like self-injury or aggressive behavior and can also help improve communication and cooperation.(https://www.mammausa.org/testimonials.html ) As far as side effects goes medicinal cannabis can not possibly be any more dangerous than the medications she has already been prescribed.