A recent survey suggests 18.6% of caregivers looking after an autistic child are administering cannabidiol (CBD).
Autism Parenting Magazine’s survey sent out to more than 160,000 email subscribers around the world indicates 22.16% of USA-based caregivers administer cannabidiol, while among UK caregivers use was 14.29%. For other countries (categorised as “rest of the world”), the figure was 15.45%.
As for the primary reasons for administering CBD:
- 42.9%: anxiety relief
- 36.9%: addressing challenging behavior
- 5.1%: pain relief and inflammation
- 8.1%: sleep and relaxation
- 4.3%: seizures
The primary methods of CBD administration were oils in the form of oral drops and topical sprays (60.8%), gummies and topicals (21.5%), capsules or tablets (7.5%), lotions or balms (5.1%) and vaping products (1.9%). There appears to be some crossover there in relation to topicals, which includes sprays, lotions and balms.
CBD is still tightly controlled in many parts of the world, but in others it can be easily accessed without a prescription. The survey found only 20.1% have a doctor’s prescription for CBD usage – the proportion of the remainder who are in a jurisdiction where cannabidiol is freely available vs. those who may be accessing it illegally wasn’t provided.
As for frequency of usage, 46.4% administered it “daily”, 28.6% indicated “only occasionally”, 3.6% said “weekly” and the remaining participants gave “Other” responses – which included those no longer using it, or administering CBD infrequently.
When asked if respondents would recommend CBD products to other parents with children on the spectrum, 82.9% said they would.
The COVID pandemic appears to have some effect on uptake, with 31.3% of caregivers starting CBD usage for the first time during this period. 16.6% have increased the amount of CBD they administer since the pandemic began. The disruption caused by the pandemic can be particularly distressing to children on the spectrum as it has limited activity and upset routines.
While APM says initial results of the impact of CBD on autistic children are encouraging, it states caregivers should approach any treatments with caution and strongly advises consulting a medical clinician for advice before starting a child on CBD. An important point also raised in the survey report is substances such as CBD treat symptoms rather than solve problems; so approaches such as Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA Therapy) remain an important tool.