Autism is quite a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children all over the world. It is heart-wrenching to see God’s most precious creations suffering from an ailment that steals their smiles and play. But, recent clinical trials with CBD (cannabinoids) or medical marijuana against the effects of autism and related disorders, promise to bring smiles to the faces of many parents.
New Hope For Children Suffering From Autistic Disorders
Marijuana, a weed, is often used as a recreational drug that is related to drug addicts. Its potent psychoactive component that actually has the mind-altering capabilities is found in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which a team of doctors and researchers at the University of California have been able to successfully tap for the benefit of autistic children.
Dr. Doris Trauner, a pediatric neurologist and renowned professor of neurosciences and pediatrics of UC, San Diego, and his study team, conducted a double-blinded placebo-controlled crossover study with a few autistic children and CBD. This means that neither the patients nor the doctors know when they are getting the placebo and when the medicine is.
Dopamine and serotonin are two primary neurotransmitters that help in transmitting nerve impulses from one nerve to another. While serotonin regulates mood, dopamine helps us to react appropriately. It is an imbalance in these that are connected to autism in children. High or low levels of the latter are said to cause behavioral disturbances in autistic children as they cause certain parts of the brain to malfunction. In murine models too, serotonin has been shown to affect social behaviors, and the addition of CBD like many other things does have an effect on the neurotransmitter levels thus, altering social interactions.
According to Dr. Trauner, autistic children usually show repetitive behaviors like flapping their hands and spinning in circles. But the trouble arises when the children start harming themselves like hitting their heads on the walls, biting their hands, or pinching themselves. Therapies like behavioral, occupational, and speech can sometimes help but superficially. FDA has so far no treatments for the core symptoms. They have only approved two drugs used as antipsychotic medications for bipolar disorders and schizophrenia that are also given to autistic children who show tremendous self-harm or aggression.
Basically, they are treatments with side effects which many parents don’t want to comply with. Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the Autism and Obsessive and Compulsive Spectrum Program at Montefiore Health System, New York, stated that the drugs can cause cardiovascular disorders or diabetic syndromes in later stages. Hence, there is an absolute necessity to find treatments to cure the core problems of autism. Dr. Hollander, along with his research team is also working on a double-blind placebo-controlled study where autistic children and adolescents are getting cannabinoid cannabidivarin (CBDV) as the medicine.
Dr. Hollander hopes that CBDV can have promising results in treating autism as it has the capacity to either decrease excitement in neurons or increase inhibition. In children with autistic behavior, the ratio of this gets disturbed resulting in explosive behaviors like aggression and self-harm. Both the studies are going fine with positive results but as Dr. Trauner said that it is too early to jump to conclusions. The tests are unregulated and can have side effects too. They can be toxic and cause liver dysfunctions later in life.
Many parents are hopeful about getting their children back as seeing their child suffering from autism is like leaving them in the hands of destiny. Autism can cause children to go nonverbal and reluctant in socializing. The researchers still don’t know whether the CBD had any effect on neuroregeneration or not, but seeing their children happy and getting to communicate with them, is bringing back hopes in the lives of many parents.
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