I hope to bring some regularity into posting articles to my blog, but in addition to my intention to post something new every weekend, I hope to make some more succint posts whenever I run into something interesting that I feel like sharing.
Today I want to share my conclusion based on the evidence I’ve read, that autism can be succesfully treated through natural means. This is inevitably a controversial topic, because people with autism tend to argue that they don’t wish to be treated, instead society should accept their differences.
That’s a nice argument, but it’s also a way of shooting yourself in the foot. The reality is that for most people on the spectrum, autism is associated with significant suffering. It’s not just a case of having different interests or mannerisms, it tends to lead to impairment in your quality of life.
We can look at the average life expectancy, of 36 years. We can look at the rate of suicidal behavior (tenfold increased in autistic women according to some studies), the rate of self-injury and self-reported depression, to see that autism comes with a significantly reduced quality of life. To ignore those facts is to do yourself a disservice.
Most importantly, the problems associated with autism tend to accumulate like a snowball when they’re ignored. As an example, a person with autism might argue that they genuinely prefer solo activities, but social anxiety among autistic people is much higher too. As a consequence, the lack of experience in social activities causes the social anxiety to grow worse over time. Similarly, untreated depression is known to cause lasting brain damage.
To me, pretending that autism is merely a form of neurological diversity is a bit like pretending that being obese is just a form of natural variation. The fact that people with autism have some unique talents doesn’t change the fact that it causes severe suffering, just as the fact that schizophrenia comes with certain creative talents doesn’t change the fact that untreated schizophrenia makes it very difficult to lead a normal healthy life.
Another thing I find important to point out is that a lot of people on the spectrum end up strongly convinced of ideas that are overall detrimental for them. As an example, there seems to be a link between autism and some forms of political extremism. One effect of autism is that it allows you to explain a particular idea or interest without continually adjusting yourself to the social consensus around you. This can allow people with autism to be very creative for example, by honestly exploring niche ideas that carry a taboo. The problem this causes however is that it doesn’t lead you to notice the normal limits that discourage most people from anchoring onto ideas that don’t work in their benefit.
Another example of a potentially dangerous idea that autistic people often explore is transgenderism. A recent study found that 42% of transgender or “non-binary” people would fit a diagnosis of autism. A common observation among autistic children is that they find the social expectations that come with their birth gender to be very distressing. As a consequence, they start identifying as not belonging to their birth gender.
For many of these children who don’t identify as their birth gender, gender dysphoria is a transitory state. I expect that the current epidemic of irreversible surgery on children with gender dysphoria will be viewed in the same manner as we now view the once common practice of lobotomy in mentally ill children and castration of homosexuals.
Most studies tend to find that people with autism suffer from brain inflammation. This brain inflammation is a form of auto-immunity that also causes the severe depression that tends to be associated with autism. So what causes this brain inflammation? This is somewhat hard to say, it’s likely that multiple factors are responsible. There’s a growing conviction among scientists that a lack of biodiversity in our environment is leading to a variety of autoimmune conditions.
Over the years we’ve seen succes at improving various symptoms of autism. MDMA can be used in therapy to reduce social anxiety. High dose vitamin D also helps a lot of autistic children. However, the most effective intervention appears to be one that makes use of the brain’s endocannabinoid system.
One of the consistent findings in autism is a reduction in a number of endocannabinoids. Cannabis obviously contains cannabinoids, but the human body produces cannabinoids too. One of the most important cannabinoids in cannabis, cannabidiol, increases levels of endocannabinoids in the human brain. It also reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
A study was done in children with autism, where they received cannabidiol and a bit of THC. Most of the symptoms of autism were improved by the formula. The dose these children received was 16 milligram of cannabidiol per kilogram of body weight and 0.8 milligram of THC per kilogram of bodyweight. This is a high dose, higher than you will get with the pills you can get on the internet, unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money.
Cannabidiol in high doses is also known to work against problems that are commonly associated with autism. As an example, a high dose of cannabidiol (600mg), reduces social anxiety in people who have to speak publicly. Depression too is improved in rats by the kind of dose given to the children with autism.
The important thing to comprehend about cannabinoids is that these various substances in cannnabis tend to interact and improve each others effects. This is called the entourage effect. As an example, THC on its own can cause a psychotic high, you start having strange irrational ideas and feeling anxiety. Generally speaking, these problems disappear when the high wears off so there’s no actual harm, but it’s still unfortunate.
I need to illustrate something first, the problem with taking cannabidiol from regular supplements sold in stores. In most cases, I see stores sell bottles with 90 pills of 10 milligram each, for 40,66 euro. This means you’re spending roughly 20 euro per day, if you want to take the kind of dose of cannabidiol that’s used in studies to reduce social anxiety in adults or to treat autism in children. People buy cannabidiol in stores, get a dose perhaps just 10% of what they actually need for their condition, then conclude that cannabidiol must be the next hyped-up worthless supplement.
In contrast, if you would smoke good weed or hashish, you’d get a multitude of CBD compared to what you’ll find in a pill. In addition to this, you would get other ingredients in cannabis like THC, which help reinforce each others effect. Besides being cheaper, it works better.
Here’s what you’d need to get enough CBD, simply by buying Hemp flowers and making your own food. In the Netherlands you can buy 40 gram of hemp flowers, with 2.96% CBD, for 10 euro. This means you’re getting 1184 milligram of CBD. Now you’d have to spend about three euro per day for sufficient cannabidiol used to treat autism.
Most people report however that some THC in the cannabis helps people with autism too. It’s generally best to make sure the cannabis you take has a high ratio of CBD to THC, for most conditions roughly 10 units of CBD for every unit of THC is ideal. Good cannabis for recreational purposes that doesn’t cause anxiety or paranoia has roughly 1 unit of CBD for every unit of THC, but this type of ratio is not preferable for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately most cannabis found today has much higher amounts of THC than CBD, leading to a more anxious experience.
Ideal is to make edible cannabis, because the effects last longer, there is no damage to the lungs and less of the cannabis is lost through smoke that is not inhaled. Instructions on how to make cannabutter can be found here. My recommendation would be to try following the instructions with five grams of non-psychoactive hemp flowers and half a gram of “weed”. You could then bake some edibles with this butter and eat half of it on one day, to see how it makes you feel.