A Story of Autism & Cannabis
If you know someone with autism, you may have heard about Alex on the Internet, or may be struggling with a severely autistic child; you may have even been in contact with Alex’s family through Alexneedshelp.com. Alex Echols is a teenager who suffers from tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder which has caused autism and seizures since he was young, states Tracy Miller of the New York Daily News. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), tuberous sclerosis causes benign tumor growth on organs such as the brain, kidneys, heart, and lungs and results in seizures, developmental delays, and behavioral problems –the tumors can block the flow of fluid through the brain. Behavioral problems such as sudden rage, aggression, and self-harming or destructive behavior are common with the disease.
Dr. Colin Roberts, Alex’s pediatric neurologist, was interviewed by Fox 12 Oregon News: “Alex cannot communicate using words and that leads to behavior that is very frustrating for him and for those caring for him.” By the time Alex was five, he was consistently inflicting violent injuries on himself, and his parents had to film the behaviors to prove they were not responsible. Under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, Alex was able to receive medical marijuana legally in 2010, but due to his parents’ inability to obtain reliable information on how to obtain legal cannabis oil for him or how to measure out a dosage, the family eventually had to send Alex to a state-contracted facility, stated Doll. The family was unable to give Alex the medicine he truly needs now due to federal prohibition.
The Echols family stated on Alex's website: “Marijuana is controversial because its long-term effects on a child are believed to be unknown, and possibly risky. Alex’s other medications [Zoloft, Risperdal, valium, Haldol, Ativan, amitriptyline, etc.] are exactly the same – nobody has data for how long-term use of Risperdal affects a growing child!” The Echols’ point is that the prohibition of marijuana at the federal level is not preventing harm so much as it is causing it, resulting in a lack of research on the effects of cannabis which might be able to help children like Alex.
Alex is now able to get the dosage he needs when he is home. The video above shows a before & after look into Alex's rage and his response to cannabis.
"Is it a miracle plant that fixes everything? No. But on average, if we rated his rage on a scale from 1 to 10, the tincture we’re giving him (as of January 2013) would drop his rage by two points. It’s sometimes far more dramatic than that, and sometimes nothing happens at all. But on average, we see a noticeable difference, even if it’s not dramatic." -Mr. Echols
CNN’s Lauren Sennet reported on Haleigh Cox’s condition, for which Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill called Haleigh’s Hope Act in 2015 to legalize low-THC cannabis oil for “medication-resistant epilepsies.” The bill also initiated research for the treatment alternative. With legalization sweeping the nation, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Arena Pharmaceuticals, CannaVest, Plandai Biotechnology, Peak Pharmaceuticals, and Axim Biotechnologies are among 55 companies currently investigating the medical uses of cannabis. René Kurz and Kurt Blaas conducted the first study on the use of dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol) in an infant child with autism in 2010; the results were astounding. Following the Aberrant Behavior Checklist or ABC (a National Institute for Health scale which includes behaviors like irritability, agitation, crying, social withdrawal, and lethargy), the infant was given 5 drops of dronabinol per day (morning, noon, and evening) and observed six months after treatment with dronabinol had begun. There were no adverse effects, and the ABC scales were tipped significantly in the areas of hyperactivity, lethargy, and irritability and other common autistic behaviors. Although much more research remains, the initial scientific results and the results many families report for their children will drive the cannabis industry to find a safer, more natural, and more effective treatment for autism in children.