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Weed on the Spectrum: How it Affects Autism

by in Medical Marijuana April 26, 2022

If you or someone you know has autism, you’ve probably heard about the use of medical marijuana to treat symptoms. If you’re not familiar with how it works, it can be easy to dismiss this method of treatment as ineffective or even dangerous, but the truth is that there are some very good reasons why many people on the spectrum choose to use weed as part of their recovery plan.

Medical Cannabis for Autism Symptoms

As a spectrum disorder, autism can affect many aspects of your child’s life including their behavior, communication, motor skills, and social interactions. Thankfully, medical cannabis may be able to improve certain aspects of autism by controlling symptoms like anxiety and pain while simultaneously improving mood and sleep patterns. With autism being a complex condition that affects each individual differently, treatment options are constantly evolving as researchers look for new ways to manage autism symptoms more effectively.

Medical Marijuana Use in Autistic Children

The latest research suggests weed might be effective in alleviating some of autism’s more severe symptoms while also helping kids in a number of other ways such as increasing focus and reducing stress levels. Some studies have found marijuana to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help with aggression and anxiety. Another also found that autistic children who took CBD oil performed better on visual processing tasks than those who didn’t. Researchers believe more studies are necessary to learn about cannabinoids’ full potential. But for now, many parents are choosing to medicate their children with cannabis – legally or otherwise – instead of putting them on potentially addictive and toxic pharmaceutical drugs like Ritalin or Adderall, which carry a long list of negative side effects.

Key Findings of Medical Marijuana and Autism Research

There have been a number of studies done looking at the effects of cannabis on autism symptoms. However, researchers have found it difficult to provide clear evidence of a link between marijuana and its observed beneficial effects on autism spectrum disorder. Still, we can try to draw some conclusions from what’s already out there. Several animal models suggest that the compounds found in marijuana (called cannabinoids) could potentially be used as a treatment option for autism symptoms—although researchers warn against putting too much weight behind those results since animals and humans are biologically different. While this is a positive step in the right direction, there are still a lot of gaps and areas that need to be considered before marijuana could be a viable option. As more studies are done and data is collected, more opportunities could become available to back up the idea that marijuana is a better treatment option than what is currently available.

Finding Relief from Other Issues

A person’s hand holding a blunt with marijuana leaves in the background.

While more research needs to be done overall, cannabis (in particular CBD) may hold some benefits for other symptoms of autism that are more physical in nature. Some studies have found that smoking weed helps manage more serious symptoms like self-injury and extreme anger. There have also been positive results when it comes to improving other comorbidities such as hyperactivity, sleep problems, anxiety, and seizures. The evidence in this area may be slightly more substantial because associated issues are easier to measure than other core symptoms, like communication impairments, when looking at autism as a whole.

Possible Side Effects

In terms of side effects, medical marijuana can lead to dizziness, nausea, and feelings of fatigue. Also, smoking weed and other products of combustion releases carbon monoxide into your system. For these reasons and more, many experts are still skeptical about cannabis as a treatment option for autism spectrum disorders. But because more and more parents are reporting positive experiences using medical cannabis to treat their children’s autism symptoms, it’s important to have as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision about whether or not medical marijuana is right for your autistic loved one. If you’ve already tried weed with your autistic child—or if they’re already using weed on their own—it’s a good idea to know how to manage side effects and reduce risks.

What Marijuana Treatment is Right for You?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to medical marijuana, there are ways to find relief while reducing your use of potentially addictive prescription drugs. For example, you can mix your own tinctures or purchase them from a dispensary or online. Another option is edibles—they can take more time to kick in but last longer than smoking or vaping. Plus, you can control how much THC you consume in each serving. Many people who use edibles say they feel relaxed and sleep better than they would otherwise. No matter what you choose, be sure to start slow at the beginning and build your way up to gauge your limits.


Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in America. While some people use marijuana as medicine, others use it just for fun or recreation. The weed you see at your neighborhood dispensary and all over social media has been specially grown to have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound responsible for many of marijuana’s effects. Researchers still aren’t sure what role, if any, weed plays in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). So far, early results show that weed may have some benefits for ASD but it’s not significant enough to be definitive. However, it doesn’t seem to make things worse either. For now, it may be best to stick with low-THC strains until more research comes out about how using weed affects individuals with ASD.

Check out our services to get started with the medical marijuana card process. If you have any questions along the way, feel free to reach out to our team of experts. We are always happy to help point you in the right direction.

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