Should You Use CBD for Asperger Syndrome?

Illustration of a Woman with Asperger Syndrome
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: July 2, 2021

Although more scientific evidence is needed, CBD is becoming an increasingly popular supplement for people with Asperger syndrome.

It’s thought to help reduce stress and anxiety in social situations, as well as reduce aggression and self-harming behavior in more severe cases.

Although there is no cure for the condition, read on to find out why the cannabinoid may be emerging as an effective way of managing Asperger syndrome.

Quick Answer: Does CBD Help with Asperger Syndrome?

Although no two people with Asperger syndrome are the same, the following behavior characteristics tend to be extremely common:

  1. Persistent difficulties with, or notable differences in, social interaction and communication
  2. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors, activities, or interests, to the extent that these impact negatively on day-to-day life

In more severe cases, seizures can also occur — sometimes on a regular basis.

CBD may be able to help to manage the condition in the following ways:

  1. Relieving stress and anxiety during social interactions
  2. Promoting feelings of relaxation, which helps to alleviate aggression and self-harming behavior
  3. Helping to reduce the frequency and/or severity of seizures

CBD is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, and it is impossible to consume an overdose.

As such, it offers a natural, potentially safer alternative to the current anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anticonvulsant medications available on prescription.

As scientists are still uncovering CBD’s potential in this area — and, unfortunately, research is still in its infancy — we cannot say for sure whether it’s an effective supplement for managing Asperger syndrome.

How Does CBD Work for Asperger Syndrome?

Chemical Structure of CBD on Hemp Leaves BackgroundAsperger syndrome is classified under the broader umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates affects approximately 1 in every 68 people. Aspergers itself is less common – affecting around 1 in every 250 people, although these statistics continue to change as the condition is increasingly researched and understood.

Although there are some key identifiable traits, the characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary — sometimes dramatically — from person to person. This makes the diagnosis process notoriously difficult, and finding a good treatment for each individual can be equally challenging.

With the right support in place, people with Asperger syndrome are perfectly capable of living fulfilling and productive life.

Current treatment usually focuses on improving social interactions, primarily through psychological, speech and language, art, and music therapies. Dietary changes can also be beneficial, as well as certain prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications.

Here are six ways CBD may help with Asperger’s syndrome:

1. Boosting Anandamide Production

Anandamide is one of the body’s primary endocannabinoids that synthesizes in areas of the brain where cognitive processes such as memory and motivation (pleasure and reward) are managed. It can therefore boost our mood, according to various studies.

Many people with Asperger syndrome have lower levels of anandamide, as well as serotonin and dopamine.

CBD may optimize levels of anandamide in the body, specifically by preventing its breakdown while simultaneously increasing the rate of its release. This helps to improve overall mood, as well as regulate cognitive processes in stressful or anxiety-provoking situations.

2. Reducing Severity & Frequency of Seizures

For those who experience seizures as part of their Asperger syndrome diagnosis (approximately 20%–30%), reducing their frequency and severity is one of the most crucial parts of the management of the condition.

Studies have shown that CBD to be extremely effective at reducing seizures, and there’s even an approved CBD-based pharmaceutical medicine, Eipdiolex, available on prescription.

3. Improving Social Behavior

A lack of social skills is perhaps one of the most commonly associated ‘symptoms’ of Asperger syndrome. People with the condition offer experience mild to severe cases of social anxiety and disfunction, inability to communicated effectively, and inability to read and respond to generally recognized social cues.

Although there is little clinical research into the effects of CBD on people with Asperger syndrome, there are considerations through the reports of doctors as well as families who are monitoring someone taking CBD to help manage the condition. It would seem, so far, that this anecdotal evidence is positive.

Some studies have attempted to expand on these theories by studying ‘rat models’ of autism. The results generally show a significant improvement in socializing behavior in the rats that have consumed CBD.

4. Relieving Stress and Anxiety

Although research is still in its infancy, studies show that CBD can potentially relieve the symptoms of anxiety in multiple ways. These include encouraging the production of serotonin (a natural mood enhancer), reducing inflammation (which could be an underlying cause of metabolic or poor gut health), improving sleep hygiene, and reducing muscle tension.

One study showed people with a social anxiety disorder who were asked to deliver a speech experienced a quick and significant reduction in perceived stress and anxiety after consuming CBD compared with those who took a placebo.

Additionally, research suggests that CBD positively interacts with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This is a part of the brain that plays a key role in the integration of cognitive information (including emotions). This, therefore, makes it effective at treating anxiety- and stress-related disorders.

According to research, CBD also modulates the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter responsible for relaxation. GABA slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure in response to mental overstimulation, essentially helping the mind (and body) to de-stress.

5. Combatting Addictive Behavior

One of the most common traits of people with Asperger syndrome is addictive behavior. This is directed at stimulation-inducing activities, such as playing with a certain toy or video game or watching television. People with Asperger syndrome can become completely focused on a single task or object, often unable to divert their attention elsewhere, even when prompted.

Medical experts believe that the main cause of this is a dysfunction in the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the area of the brain responsible for the release of oxytocin, the ‘feel-good’ molecule. In some people with Asperger syndrome — as well as other forms of autism — dopamine levels are significantly low.

CBD has been shown to help treat addictive behavior by optimizing the release of dopamine, allowing people to experience the body’s reward response without requiring excessive stimulation.

6. Treating Psychological Conditions

In addition to stress- and anxiety-related conditions, it’s not uncommon for people with autism and Asperger syndrome to also experience psychological (specifical mood) disorders. The most common are:

Many of these conditions are influenced in some way through serotonin activity in the brain.

Clinical trials have shown that CBD can potentially be used to reduce hyperactivity of the serotonin receptors and has similar effects to lithium, which is a common pharmaceutical mood-stabilizing medication. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment for people with psychosis disorders such as schizophrenia.

Pros & Cons of Using CBD for Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Word in Colorful Cubes White BackgroundCBD is by no means a one-size-fits-all treatment for Asperger syndrome, and it’s certainly not a cure. And although there are many potential benefits for including it in the management of the condition, as outline above, there are some cautions to bear in mind.

Why People with Asperger Syndrome Should Avoid consuming CBD Products That Contain THC

Under federal law, full- or broad-spectrum CBD extracts must contain no more than 0.3% THC – the psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. As long as people with Asperger syndrome stick to these types of extracts (or, of course, CBD isolate), there’s no need to worry.

However, a higher level of THC could prove to be extremely detrimental. THC has been shown to lower anandamide levels – and as explained earlier, there is often too little anandamide in people with Asperger syndrome anyway. Lowering the level further could worsen symptoms rather than improve them.

Furthermore, THC has been shown in studies to be particularly detrimental to people suffering from psychosis and similar psychological conditions. As these can often go hand in hand with Asperger syndrome, it’s important to ensure it is not consumed.

Where to Buy CBD for Asperger Syndrome?

It’s normally best to buy CBD online. That way, you can easily compare different brands, potencies, and flavors at your leisure, without any pressure to buy. But you need to ensure that you’re buying a top-quality product from a reputable company.

If the CBD extract contains high levels of heavy metals, toxins, and pesticides, it could make you extremely unwell. Plus, it’s extremely unlikely to help manage Asperger syndrome.

Companies should have a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) for every product. This proves that it’s undergone independent third-party lab testing and provides full, comprehensive results for potential customers to view.

The laboratories are in no way associated or affiliated with the companies or brands they’re testing, so they have no reason to be anything other than upfront about their findings. Plus, these labs have consistent outstanding reputations to uphold — and there’s no way they’re going to put that at risk by approving a dodgy batch.

The CoA should always indicate the potency, purity, and overall quality and contents of the CBD product, including the exact level of THC.

How to Use CBD for Asperger Syndrome?

CBD can be taken in a variety of ways, and it is more than likely that a mixture of oral and sublingual consumption (or vaping – for adults only, of course) will produce the greatest benefits.

1. Sublingual Consumption

Consuming CBD sublingually (under the tongue) allows it to bypass the digestive system and enter the bloodstream directly through the capillaries located there. This means the effects are felt quickly – usually within a couple of minutes. This is a great option for managing sudden bursts of stress or anxiety during social interactions.

2. Vaping

Obviously, this option is only for adults – children should not be vaping anything. But vaping offers the same benefits as sublingual consumption, as the CBD is able to bypass the digestive and metabolizing systems by entering the bloodstream directly through the lungs. Again, this is great for managing symptoms quickly and at short notice.

3. Oral consumption

Consuming CBD oil in the form of a gummy, capsule, or CBD-infused food could also be beneficial. However, as it has to go through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream, it will take much longer to kick in compared with sublingual consumption or vaping. This makes it a good option for

regular consumption in order to stay on top of the condition in general, but it may be best to combine it with sublingual consumption or vaping.

CBD Dosage for Asperger Syndrome

As previously explained, Asperger syndrome varies from person to person – as do the type, and severity, of symptoms. Consequently, the required dose of CBD to provide an effective treatment will also vary.

As always, therefore, the best idea is to ‘start low and go slow’ approach. That simply means with a low dose and gradually increasing it until you experience the desired effects. Then, you know you’ve found the optimum dosage for the individual, so you can stick with that unless symptoms increase or worsen.

Luckily, it’s impossible to overdose on CBD, so there’s no need to worry about doing any serious harm. Even so, you still want to avoid experiencing any unwanted (albeit mild) side-effects, such as nausea, dry mouth, or drowsiness.

Final Thoughts: Using CBD for Asperger Syndrome

There’s no doubt that CBD can offer a range of benefits for helping to manage Asperger syndrome. It can help to relieve stress and anxiety, as well as help to improve mood and social interactions. In more severe cases, it can also help to reduce the frequency or severity of seizures, as well as treat associated psychological issues and disorders.

Of course, it’s not a cure – and it’s crucial to ensure that THC levels remain below 0.3%. THC can worsen the condition so if in doubt, opt for a CBD isolate. Usually, oral or sublingual consumption, or a combination of both, is the best option, but vaping is also a common alternative for adults.

Lastly, remember that it’s always advisable to consult a medical professional before taking any new supplement as a treatment for a condition.

References

  1. Karhson, D. S., Krasinska, K. M., Dallaire, J. A., Libove, R. A., Phillips, J. M., Chien, A. S., … & Parker, K. J. (2018). Plasma anandamide concentrations are lower in children with autism spectrum disorder. Molecular Autism, 9(1), 1-6.
  2. Wei, D., Lee, D., Cox, C. D., Karsten, C. A., Peñagarikano, O., Geschwind, D. H., … & Piomelli, D. (2015). Endocannabinoid signaling mediates oxytocin-driven social reward. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 14084-14089.
  3. Vogel, Z., Barg, J., Levy, R., Saya, D., Heldman, E., & Mechoulam, R. (1993). Anandamide, a brain endogenous compound, interacts specifically with cannabinoid receptors and inhibits adenylate cyclase. Journal of neurochemistry, 61(1), 352-355.

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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