Why cannabis medicine should be available to people with autism

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Dan Jose from the Cheese Board Social Cannabis Club has backed calls for cannabis medicine to be made available for people with autism.

Autism charity Thinking Autism has said that cannabis medicine should be available for “autism-related conditions, such as anxiety, irritability and heightened stress response”.

Despite the Government’s statement that “the new law will not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment”, it has since been suggested in the media that it will be limited to treating epilepsy, chronic pain and chemo-induced nausea.

Thinking Autism’s advocacy lead Natasa Blagojevic-Stokic told Learning Disability Today that she was “hopeful” that the Government would reconsider.

Dan, who has used cannabis to treat his autism for decades, said: “The most important thing I could say about autism and cannabis is that you go from not being able to function, to being able to function. That might sound ridiculous to an awful lot of people, but being able to function when you aren’t able to function the other 90% of the time is something a lot of people obviously take for granted.

“I completely agree that cannabis medicine should be offered to people with autism. It gives a person with autism their life back. Without it you are stuck in a loop that destroys your ability to do anything other than procrastinate the entire day.

“It is a case of, can you function if you instead have a dab? With all the people who are autistic who use cannabis who I know, the answer is yes. The problem is, cannabis is illegal. To be able to function, in order to work, I have to break the law. Whereas if it were legal, you suddenly have this huge population of very capable people who are now capable of working. It would open up a huge number of options for people who are currently written off by society as useless when they are not useless.

“I know so many autistic people who think they have no capabilities, when really they are brilliant people who may have capabilities that are quite pigeonholed because they have never learned to executively function in a way that allows them to do more.

“From a personal perspective, different balances of cannabinoids and terpenes in different strains can affect me negatively or positively. Having an unregulated market where I have to kind of guess, or even just take someone’s word for what’s in something, can mean that something I take is going to make my issue worse. So I think regulated cannabis medicine for people on the autistic spectrum should be allowed.

“What I am scared about is that we’re going to end up with just the ‘NHS options’ and those who have grown their own will not be able to treat themselves as they have been. I have not spent the last few decades learning which strains do what and which things to avoid for nothing. That knowledge should not be discounted just because I am not a doctor.

“I want some sort of regulation for the production side but if people want to produce it themselves and can prove that they produce something that is clean and of a good enough grade that can treat their issues then I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to do that either.”

Professor Mike Barnes, a neurologist who secured a Home Office licence for six-year-old Alfie Dingley to be given cannabis medicine for his epilepsy, has urged the Government not to impose tight restrictions on prescribing.

“I think it should be up to the doctor,” says Barnes, although he believes they would have to be a “little more cautious” about prescribing for conditions that lacked a solid base of evidence.

He suggests that clinical trials should be undertaken for conditions which lack solid evidence to support cannabis use. This would enable medics to assess the drug’s effectiveness without denying it to those who suggest it’s the only treatment that works for them.

Barnes added we should “not restrict doctors, otherwise we’ll never learn anything, will we? If we say the evidence for autism isn’t strong enough, well how are you going to get it stronger? The only way to get it stronger is to prescribe it and monitor what happens.”

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