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Medical Marijuana for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

For people with autism, marijuana has been found to help reduce the likelihood of serious behavioral episodes. Autism is a developmental disorder varying in severity, characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication, as well as by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought or behavior. 

Since 2013, four separate autism diagnoses have been grouped into what the American Psychiatric Association refers to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This all-encompassing term now includes:

  1. Autistic disorder
  2. Asperger syndrome
  3. Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  4. Childhood disintegrative disorder

Today, approximately 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed with a form of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Autism Society. Most signs of autism spectrum disorder will be apparent before the age of three. Each of these individuals with ASD will be affected differently, so it’s important to know the common symptoms early on. 

Symptoms associated with autism include repetition of speech or movements, speaking later than normal for their age or not speaking at all, preferring to play alone, responding with limited facial expressions, not making eye contact, experiencing sensitivity or lack thereof to sensory stimuli, and stressing over any changes to routine. 

While there is no cure for people with ASD, those who recognize the characteristics and receive a diagnosis earlier in life may start learning important early development skills. However, research has shown that about 40% of children with autism spectrum disorder don’t always have the best reaction to or handle behavioral treatment methods well. 

Recent studies have shown that medical cannabis for autism patients may have a therapeutic effect on the symptoms associated with ASD. Based on this research done for patients with autism, medical marijuana can have a positive effect on some of the common symptoms of ASD by easing their anxiety and depression, making them less irritable and aggressive, helping those with sleep disturbances, easing hyperactivity and restlessness, and decreasing the frequency of attacks of self-mutilation, bouts of anger, and psychomotor agitation. In conjunction with taking a form of medical cannabis, ASD patients’ speech, social skills, reactions to sensory stimuli, and cognitive functions improved. Cannabis has been linked to the improvement of sleep patterns and the overall mood of people with autism. Medical marijuana has also been used to help in severe forms of epilepsy, sometimes accompanied by autism. Marijuana may also increase receptiveness to learning for those with ASD.

In Illinois, autism is one of the qualifying medical conditions for receiving a medical marijuana card. Autism spectrum disorder patients may apply for the medical marijuana card, which grants them the ability to purchase medical cannabis at an Illinois dispensary for their associated symptoms and behaviors. 

**As always, you should consult a health professional before using medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This information is not medical advice for patients with ASD. 

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