I was not a fan of pot in college. It reeked and the stoners I knew in college were annoying. I wish I could insert a memory Vine of my sophomore roommate in college–an incredibly bright chemistry major/surfer girl–rolling in stoned at 8pm the night before an Organic Chemistry final. She laughed at me because I was frantically re-working my entire OChem lab notebook. “Duuuuuude! That’s so funny that you have to study!” then she shuffled off to bed giggling and I stayed up until 4am studying. She got an A and I got a high-enough grade I didn’t have to re-take the class. Barely. See? Annoying.
One of the biggest, buzziest things at AutismOne this year was the use medical marijuana for the treatment of symptoms related to autism, especially amelioration of both seizures and anxiety. The first time I heard about this I rolled my eyes and blew it off. Completely.
Then I read a story about a mom with a violent 15 yr old on the autism spectrum and how the atypical antipsychotics prescribed to him failed to work. She tried medical marijuana and saw a much calmer kid emerge. I joked that if it made him want to sit around and watch TV, what’s the harm? Way better than violent behavior. WAY. I didn’t know a single violent pot head.
I started to hear more about it: A Facebook friend started posting links to articles about CBD and THC-A and I would click through now and then. One of my Thinking Moms’ Revolution comrades, Tex, is an advocate for medical marijuana for autism in Texas. A local friend tried to convince me to give it try for anxiety since in California I can easily get a card. I have a friend who has found it’s the only thing that treats her migraines. Instead of ending up in the emergency room on an IV of increasingly powerful drugs, as she has done several times, she stays homes and watches movies for a day and takes a nap.
More and more information was becoming available and more people were opening up about using marijuana for medical reasons…including seizures. This was the one that got my attention. My 9 year old has epilepsy. He has been on Lamictal for several years and has tolerated it well, but when he outgrows his dose, things kind of fall apart. Because of where his seizures occur (and seizures are like real estate–location! location! location!), it negatively affects his behavior, spikes his anxiety, and causes some memory loss. I’ve got concerns about side effects and long-term effects of Lamictal, of course, but in his case there are very real, very negative consequences of not controlling the seizures. My other concern is how close my son is to bumping up against the ceiling dose of the med for his weight. If it doesn’t work at full dose–and I’ve read its fully effective 60% of the time–his doctor said we’d have to add another med. And I’m really, really, really not excited by that prospect.
You may have heard of a strain of high-CBD marijuana grown in Colorado for a little girl named Charlotte who has intractable seizures: Charlotte’s Web. It has a much lower percentage of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot that gives the stoner high. This story was highlighted on Sanjay Gupta’s special on CNN, “Weed.”
I wasn’t sure how to start my son on CBD, not sure how to broach the subject with his pediatrician. I got into a scheduling snafu with the pediatric neurologist and wasn’t sure where to turn. Then I went to AutismOne and sat in on the presentations by Dr John Hicks (who is local to me!) and Dr Jeff Bradstreet on the endocannabinoid system and using CBD.
The scales fell from my eyes and I saw the light!
Yes, it’s dramatic, but I’d largely ignored the ramblings of my friendly neighborhood potheads about the medicinal properties of their pet weed because I didn’t have glaucoma, cancer, or unresolved pain. Most of the articles I’d read were written to rail against The Man and his control of medical information. While I’m certainly sympathetic to that position, the angry stoner position wasn’t convincing. Geek that I am, what convinced me was a methodical presentation of information about how the endocannabinoid system works, charts, published studies, and case studies…because nothing sways me like a good dose of anecdata ;).
The AutismOne conference was sponsored by HempMedsPx, which sells a legal, standardized CBD concentrate derived from a non-GMO, high-CBD industrial hemp cultivar. I joked going in about how the whole weekend was going to be Reefer Madness, but the joke ended up being on me in a way. I spent quite a long time talking to the reps at the HempMed booth, other parents who were hanging out, and even grabbed a few minute with Dr. Hicks after his lecture. On my last morning there, I ordered a tube of the 15.5% RSHO (real scientific hemp oil, not Rick Simpson Hemp Oil) and had it shipped to my house.
I got a show deal, FWIW, which lowered the barrier to trying it. (I also sent some CBD balm to my mom who is recovering from surgery.)
Before experimenting on my kid, I experimented on myself, taking a very small dose of the oil–I was advised to start with an amount equal to half a grain of rice. It made me sleepy and completely turned off my anxiety. It was very interesting to go from my state of high stress to negligible stress in less than an hour. The positive benefit lasted a day or two, not wearing off 100% right away.
My 9 year old has been in a state of fight-or-flight his entire life. After talking it over with our naturopath and reviewing the videos and articles, including this one, that explained how the cannabinoids operate on an entirely different pathway than the meds he was on, I decided to give it a try.
We started off with the merest smear of oil, but it was enough. We have slowly worked up to a big drop of oil twice a day. I layer it in mango sorbet so he doesn’t taste it. Optimal dosing is sublingual, but it tastes pretty bad. Encapsulating it would also work for those who can swallow pills.
This is the hemp oil in a spoon with a crushed melatonin. I use a drop and then cover it with another thin layer of sorbet. Results so far: We’ve seen a definite improvement in anxiety levels and sleep when he gets the 2x day dosing. It didn’t affect seizures that we could tell, but it has helped his ability to cope. Extreme stress has been a seizure trigger in the past, so the RSHO has noticeably decreased that significant trigger, which is enough right now. We have had days where he gets one dose and a couple days completely off the RSHO and I noticed a return of the high anxiety when he didn’t get the CBD.
So, not high times, not reefer madness, but therapeutically appropriate use of a legal, natural medicine that has been screened for potency that delivers–for my family–on the promise of less anxiety without psychoactive side effects.
Dr Bradstreet’s talk at AutismOne: