Desperate parents are now turning to marijuana to treat kids with autism

Desperate parents are now turning to marijuana to treat kids with autism

Cannabis is increasing in popularity as a medicine

1 in 45 children in the United States of America falls prey to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Having said that, the country has only approved two medications to treat someone who might be experiencing the symptoms of ASD. The problem here is that both the drugs are not very efficient and effective in their treatment and more importantly cause too many serious side effects. 

However here is the good news for all those concerned about the lack of treatment options for this life-altering disease. Another treatment option that has to do with cannabis is starting to gain popularity.

The first clinical trial of the cannabis for autistic children is taking place in Israel as we speak. To carry forth the experiment, participants are given liquid drops of one of two kinds of cannabis oil formulas or a placebo. Much to parent's relief, neither of these oils have a have a high concentration of THC - marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient -and is instead high in cannabidiol - or CBD - marijuana's main non-psychoactive compound. 

The research was conducted because a pioneering study conducted by Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem reviewed 120 children and young adults, ages 5 to 29, suffering from mild to severe autism only to find that even though nearly all participants had consumed antipsychotics at some point of time, almost half of them responded negatively to the medication. It was an easy conclusion the existing drugs clearly had a poor track record as a cure such a fast-spreading disease.

On the contrary, the results of the cannabis drugs have so far been positive. According to the USA Today, Tamir Gedo, CEO of Breathe of Life Pharma - the provider of the cannabis oil for the study - claims that one of the mothers of the child reported saying, “My child is speaking relentlessly.... He never spoke before. And he’s 12 years old.”

Furthermore, the Israeli government approved this drug within six months of its clinical trial - and it's now one of 110 cannabis clinical trials currently underway in Israel. The country is also known for being the leader in cannabis research.

Interestingly, however, the U.S. has blocked all clinical trials of the drug - even though the country has spent more than $1.4 billion on marijuana research since 2008 where $1.1 billion of those funds were saved entirely for studying addiction, withdrawal and drug abuse instead of treatment options. 

This has been brought to light by several of the country's citizens and the states of the country are finally taking the issue up seriously. Minnesota is now the latest state to have taken action without the support of the federal government by adding ASD to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Organ and Washington D.C, are some other countries that are considering and even allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from ASD.

For the drug to be prevalent and make a difference to the world, more states need to comply with this new form of treatment. However, the uncertainty is understandable because parents are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between doing something illegal to potentially help their kid or letting them suffer hopelessly. One such parent set an example for others by taking a strong stance in support of using cannabis as a cure for his daughter. 

Mark Zartler's 18-year-old daughter is suffering from severe autism and often engages in self-injurious behavior. Her tantrums aren't like any other child's - but can be violent for herself and people around her.

Kara - Mark's daughter is also suffering from Cerebral Palsy - resulting in an unfortunate combination of diseases that requires her to take multiple pharmaceutical medicines a day. In 2011, Mark decided to try cannabis vapor to treat Kara's symptoms and here is what he had to say about it -

“Cannabis vapor can help within ten minutes, and the difference is drastic. Kara’s quality of life has improved in so many ways,” Mark said. “We’ve been able to take her off unhelpful—and harmful—pharmaceutical medications that were causing her to digress mentally. Now, she only takes 2-3 medications a day, and she is more in this world with us. She pays more attention to her surroundings, giving her the desire to try to care for herself more—assisting us with bathing, dressing and feeding. She is also happier. She smiles more, sleeps better, she makes more eye contact, and looks at you when you are talking to her, like she is trying harder to understand.”

Like there are always two sides of a coin - Kara's life wasn't a cakewalk with the introduction of cannabis as a treatment because her home state, Texas does not permit the consumption of marijuana legally for any purpose - not even medical. The family is thus forced to resort to receiving it from black markets - thus risking the quality of the drug - making their treatment process more of trial and error.

“Kara’s best therapy is a mixture of strains. She builds up a tolerance when we use just one strain, so we alternate familiar ones and even try new ones,” Mark explains. “The unfortunate thing is that we cannot legally get the exact strains needed for the conditions we are trying to help. As a patient in an illegal state, we do not have the ability to have a lab process or test the flower so that we know exactly what we are using.”

A parent with a similar story is Marie Myung-Ok Lee, mother of a young autistic boy - who lived in Rhode Island when she began her experiment with cannabis. 

“It took me awhile to perfect the cookie recipe,” she wrote. “I experimented with ingredients: Blueberry, Strawberry, Sour Diesel, White Widow, Bubba Kush, AK-47—all strains of cannabis, which I stored, mixed with glycerin, in meticulously labeled jars on a kitchen shelf . . . After the cookies finished baking, I’d taste a few crumbs and annotate the effects in a notebook. Often, I felt woozy. One variation put me to sleep. When I had convinced myself that a batch was OK, I’d give a cookie to my 9-year-old son.”

Once Marie figured out the correct dose and of the drug - her son's life was changed. He learned how to ride a bike - something doctors had said he'd never be able to do. However, unfortunately for them, the family had to move to NYC where the use of cannabis to treat autism is not permitted yet. 

The prevalence of ASD in children in the United States has increased by 119.4% since 2000. More children are predicted to have been diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, Diabetes, and Cancer combined. 

Mark hopes to spread awareness and points out that “all autism parents are desperate for help..for any cannabis user, I wish that they could continue to spread the word that cannabis is a medication. It has been used medically for thousands of years. Educate your family, friends, and neighbors. It would really help the ill and disabled people in America.”


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