By Eric Zimmerman
Marijuana for many years has had a place in popular culture as being able to make one relax, or something that someone would “Party” with. It has been the focus of many school Anti-Drug campaigns and is also known to be a “Gateway” to other things. Marijuana has started to get more and more attention in the news, and legitimacy for its use for many different conditions. One of the conditions that is has been deemed to be helpful for is Autism. I am a very straight edged person and a law abiding person. I am not one to go to parties or buy drugs to get high with, so I definitely do not look at marijuana in the same way most people do. I am rather unbiased.
Along with having high functioning autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) I have dealt with a few mental health issues through the years. The most debilitating thing that I deal with the most is “anxiety.” Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have other diagnoses with them, whether it is Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or even a Mood Disorder like Bi-Polar Disorder. Many children and adults will have one of these conditions along with their main diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the years I have dealt with issues where I fixate on something that I know is irrational, but cannot get the thoughts out of my head. They are usually simple thoughts like losing my parents or dying myself, or even time going too quickly. I will fixate on something that will remind me of the passage of time and it causes me great stress. I have a friend who fixates on things like dating and cars. He also has Autism and he wishes to have things that signify his independence. Like this individual, I can relate to the fixation issues.
Drugs that are used to help with these comorbid issues of anxiety are usually anti-depressants and Benzodiazepines. Examples of anti-depressants are Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro, Cymbalta, and Trazadone. These meds are usually great at helping keep the obsessions to a minimum while maintaining an upbeat mood. Benzodiazepines work by slowing down activity in the central nervous system and works on dampening the activation of the “Flight or Fight” response that we all naturally have. The combination of both an anti-depressant and Benzodiazepines are usually helpful in combating obsessive thoughts and anxiety. Usually maintenance drugs are identified for the treatment and additional drugs are used for “flare-ups” in symptoms.
So, this is where marijuana comes into question. Marijuana has been shown to help calm the nerves, and take away the pain and agony of people suffering from other conditions such as terminal cancer, chronic pain, Glaucoma, and many more. How about its use with Autism? It has a legitimate place in the world of Autism. Again, many suffer from anxiety. Marijuana can be used to keep these individuals calm and allow them to function. I am not suggesting that people use it to get “Wasted” but to have an effect to where they would be able to be functional in life.
Everyone knows that THC in Marijuana is calming and has effect in treating many things, but what many do not know that there are more than one active ingredient in the mix. Another one of the 60 compounds found in Marijuana is called Cannabidiol or short term CBD. This can also help with Autism in another way. A lot of the symptoms of Autism or exasperated because of our poor health choices. The Gastrointestinal tract is disturbed by some of the, well, frankly JUNK that we consume. People want cheap food and food companies are meeting this need by using cheap ingredients, and more processes to keep food on the shelf longer. Someone who has Autism might be much more sensitive to these toxins which then cause the behaviors and anxiety issues that we see. So before we even get to the point where we need to provide a medicinal dose of THC, we can fix the problem where it begins. CBD has been shown to improve the health of those whom consume it. Inflammation is at the root of many issues as well and CBD has been shown to reverse inflammation. So it allows our GI tract to operate more normally. Also, and here is the BIG one, CBD is proven useful in preventing psychotic episodes- such as fixating on something. It causes the thoughts in the brain to slow.
I have to say I once met someone on one of my speaking tour dates that gave her daughter THC through the intake of a special honey. She said that it has done wonders in helping with her behaviors. If we could get just both THC and CBD together, we can have a “wonder drug.” With this wonder drug, these two compounds, which have a zero tolerance, would clearly be a winner over Benzodiazepines in the treatment in Autism related Anxiety issues. Instead of making you sicker, which Benzodiazepines can do, it actually helps heal your body. I am not a medical professional, and you should talk with your or your child’s primary care physician or Psychiatrist and get their opinion, as this is only my take on the subject. Let’s keep an open mind about Marijuana. What do you think about this topic? Comment your opinions below!
Eric D. Zimmerman is Founder and Chairman of The Buddy Project, and should know about technology’s ability to unlock some of the everyday barriers faced by the special-needs community: The 28-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism which hinders social interaction. From working with Best Buddies International, he grew to recognize that, unlike him, many of the disabled have little to no access to such commonplace household technologies as even their own email account.
Zimmerman, a graduate of Frederick High School, decided to take action. Officially, since 2007, his technological savviness (certified in computer repair and rehabilitation by the Career Technology Center’s IT program), united with his caring, altruistic drive to help others, has been brightening lives. That’s when, out of his Frederick home, he began The Buddy Project. And, ever since, his not-for-profit organization has acted upon its mission of providing free computers (and/or other technologies) to qualifying IDD candidates. It’s also a mission that the Frederick County Commission on Disabilities has duly honored by bestowing Zimmerman with its Distinguished Service Award. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Service Coordination, Inc. the largest provider in Maryland of targeted case management for people with developmental disabilities.
Zimmerman also has a special interest in Surgical IT and he spends one day a week at St. Agnes Healthcare in Baltimore where he learns about Surgical Equipment and Instruments as well as help the hospital work more efficiently by the adding of his volunteering.