Condition Overview

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by a range of behaviors and challenges with communication and social interactions. About one-third of patients with autism remain nonverbal and one-third have an intellectual disability.

There is no single known cause of all cases of autism but it is believed to be some combination of genetic and environmental. Boys are five times more likely to be autistic than girls. 

Autism affects the way the brain processes information by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect, but how this happens is not well understood.

Diagnosis of autism can be difficult because it’s based on behavior. It can’t be detected with a blood test or brain scan. Typical behaviors include hand-flapping, rocking, jumping and twirling.  Repeating sounds, words or phrases is also common.

Real Life Stories

By the time Kara Zartler was four years old, she was regularly punching herself in the head. Her fits would sometimes last hours and her parents took turns holding her arms back so she couldn’t hurt herself. The only thing that helped — a prescription for the antipsychotic medication Risperidone — also turned her into a zombie. And over time, even that didn’t help much. Her dosage of the drug kept increasing but her self-harming behavior continued. When Kara was 11, her parents did something they never expected to do. They gave their daughter a piece of a marijuana brownie, and it helped immediately. “We were euphoric,” Kara’s mother told the Dallas News. “The cannabis helps her leave her autistic traits and enter this world of communication and existence.”


The Endocannabinoid System as it Relates to Autism

Medical Marijuana: Review of the Science and Implications for Developmental Behavioral Pediatric Practice

The Knowledge Gaps for Medical Marijuana in Pediatric Conditions

Would some cannabinoids ameliorate symptoms of autism?

Interesting Fact

Despite being controversial, even among parents of autistic children, states are beginning to include autism in their medical marijuana programs. As of 2017, autism patients can get legal access to medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, California, Deleware, Oregon, Massachusetts and Washington DC.