When it comes to cannabidiol (CBD) and children, we may be somewhat familiar with the cannabinoid being used to treat seizures. But CBD may also have a place in other childhood disorders, including autism.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is characterized by reduced communicative abilities, issues with social skills, and repetitive behaviors. Autistic children behave differently than others, to varying degrees. While some children with autism may be able to carry on a conversation with little issue, others may be entirely nonverbal. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 44 children in the US are affected by autism. The disease seems to impact boys more than girls, with 1 in 27 boys affected, compared to 1 in 116 girls.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms Targeted by CBD
Children with autism often experience comorbid symptoms, including hyperactivity, aggressiveness, anxiety, self-injury, and sleep disorders. Conventional pharmaceutical medications may be used to treat these symptoms, such as antipsychotics, stimulants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
However, CBD may also have its place in the treatment of such comorbid symptoms. Studies are being conducted on CBD consumption for autism. CBD has been shown to have antipsychotic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and antiemetic properties, which may be useful in targeting certain symptoms associated with autism.
Studies Show CBD may Help Alleviate Symptoms Associated With ASD
One study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology looked at the effects of CBD oil in children with ASD. After just over two months hyperactivity symptoms, self-injury, and sleep problems appeared to have been somewhat alleviated. Among the children with hyperactivity symptoms 68.4 percent showed improvement while 67.6 percent of study participants who self harmed experienced improvement in that area. Additionally, among the children reporting sleep issues, 71.4 percent reported improved slumber.
Interestingly, CBD did not seem to have a significant effect on anxiety. However, overall, the researchers found a 74.5 percent overall improvement rate in ASD comorbidity symptoms. 
What Parents Should Know About CBD and Autism for Their Children
While some studies have been done on CBD and its effects on autism in children, more research is required. Furthermore, parents should keep certain considerations in mind before administering CBD oil to their children.
For starters, it’s important to know the exact concentration of CBD in the oil, as they may differ from one product to another. Parents should also be on the lookout for any other compound in the oil that may have a detrimental effect on their child, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has mind-altering effects. Since CBD oil products are not lab tested across the board, there could be THC and other unknown ingredients in the product. CBD could also interact with certain medications, and some side effects — such as drowsiness, among others — are possible.
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- Barchel, D., et al, “Oral Cannabidiol Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Treat Related Symptoms and Co-morbidities“, Front Pharmacol. January 2018; Vol.9:1521.