With an estimated 37.2 million people affected worldwide, Asperger Syndrome (commonly referred to as just Asperger’s, or AS) is one of the most well-known forms of autism. It is a condition that people are starting to talk about more in connection to CBD oil, with a lot of anecdotal evidence claiming that cannabidiol could help to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the disorder.
If you have Asperger’s yourself, or have a friend or loved one with AS, you may have heard some talk about this connection already. We’ve put together this overview of Asperger Syndrome and CBD oil so you can decide whether it’s something you would like to explore yourself.
Firstly, what is Aspergers?
As mentioned, Asperger Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum disorder group. Compared to other types of autism, it is a relatively new condition, with reference to it first appearing in a paper by paediatrician Hans Asperger in 1944. In this paper, Dr Asperger described four children in his practice who were showing difficulty in social situations and displaying behaviours that appeared atypical. The term Asperger syndrome, however, was only made commonplace in the medical community in the early 1980s, following a paper by Lorna Wing.
Symptoms of AS
Symptoms of AS in individuals includes:
- Lack of interest in socialising with peers
- Difficulty picking up on non-verbal social cues, such as body language
- Rarely showing their own emotions
- Repetitive behaviour
- Obsessive interest in one particular subject or activity
- An over-reliance on routine
Unlike other threads of autism, people with Asperger Syndrome do not usually have delays with their language development (which may be one reason that the condition often goes undiagnosed until later in life). However, they may use language in unusual ways, such as speaking too loudly or with too much emphasis, or using unusual vocabulary.
Often, signs of Aspergers become apparent in children when they’re around two years old and the symptoms often stay with an individual throughout his or her life. What causes the condition to develop is unknown, but boys are thought to be up to eleven times more likely to develop Aspergers than girls. There is also some evidence to suggest that having autism in the family can increase the chance of a person developing AS, as well as being born prematurely, or to older parents.
Living with Asperger Syndrome
Asperger syndrome is often regarded as a ‘high-functioning’ form of autism, as those with the condition are usually of average or above-average intelligence. There are also several careers and industries that people believe are particularly good fits for those with AS, such as engineering and maths-based jobs.
There are, however, a number of associated traits that those with AS do not like living with. It’s often these symptoms that people with the condition seek to remedy with medication or other treatments.
Treating Asperger Syndrome
In children, treatment for Asperger Syndrome often focuses on behavioural training that helps them to cope better in social situations. Sessions may also include training on how to deal with their own emotions, as those with AS can sometimes be prone to outbursts. Speech therapy is also sometimes used to teach children more standardised patterns of language and speaking.
While there aren’t any medications prescribed to treat AS directly, many people with Asperger’s end up on medication due to the other conditions that it often appears alongside. These conditions include anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and some personality disorders. There is also a link between AS and epilepsy, though research into why this is remains in its early stages.
Unfortunately, much of the medication that people with Asperger’s end up taking for other conditions can have unpleasant side effects. This includes the medication Risperdal, which has been known to cause short-term side effects such as nausea, dizziness and fever, as well as longer-lasting ones such as anxiety and weight gain.
Why Is CBD Oil Thought to Help?
CBD oil is not produced for the use of people with Asperger Syndrome; however, interest in ways that the product can help to manage the condition has grown in recent years. This is because people have turned to CBD oil for its other benefits, and anecdotally reported that it has had secondary benefits on some of the symptoms associated with AS.
The primary benefits that people have used CBD oil products for include:
Sleep Management – Children with Asperger’s are more likely to have difficulty sleeping, often waking up during the night or very early in the morning. CBD oil is thought to help people have a better night’s sleep as it activates serotonin receptors in the brain.This in turn has a relaxing effect, helping people to get to sleep more quickly and have a better sleep once they nod off.
Depression and Anxiety – Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are some of the most common conditions found in those with AS. As discussed in this post on CBD and Depression, CBD oil is thought to help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, again due to it potentiating the serotonin chemical.
In 2013, a study was published that suggested children on the autistic spectrum could have as imbalance in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As CBD works by emulating our bodies’ natural cannabinoids, this could explain why people with atypical endocannabinoid systems find some benefits from using products containing cannabidiol.
Research into CBD Oil & Aspergers
Research remains in its early stages, though many important academics in the autism community support the idea of cannabidiol having some sort of impact. One of these academics was Dr. Bernard Rimland, who was the director of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego. He wrote about the potential benefits of medical marijuana for those with autism, and it is even listed as one of the prescription or over-the-counter medications on the institute’s website.
Potentially due to a combination of academic backing and anecdotal support, a 2019 survey published in Remedy Review found that over 40% of parents had tried some form of CBD oil product with their autistic children. Of those who did, over half reported that they noticed ‘more positive mood’ in their children after using CBD, 52% reported a reduction in anxiety, 38% said that it improved their child’s sleeping and over 29% said that communication also improved.
Similarly, a study conducted in 2018 looked into the effects of CBD on sixty children with autism disorders. The results showed that 61% of parents saw an improvement in their children’s behavioural outbursts, 39% saw an improvement in their anxiety levels, and communication problems also reportedly improved in 41% of participants.
It is important to note that there has been no conclusive evidence that suggest CBD oil can be used to treat Asperger Syndrome or any other forms of autism, and many more clinical trials still need to take place. Furthermore, the Cannabis Trades Association UK recommends CBD oil products should only be used by people over the age of 18, and so products bought from Greenlife or other reputable suppliers should only be used by adults.