age when starting cannabis
18 years old
Michael (not his real name) was diagnosed around the age of 3 and is in his 20’s now. We tried many interventions and therapies when he was young, but nothing made any significant difference in his life. His behavior grew increasingly hard to handle and disruptive. We put him on Risperdal at the age of eight, the first of many anti-psychotic medications. These medications did not help much with the aggression, but they did cause severe weight gain. His behavior was still very unpredictable, aggressive, and explosive. The only way I can describe it is that was like a rage disorder. Antecedents were unclear, but at the beginning of a rage, his eyes would glaze over, he would look down, mutter and his self-stimulatory behavior would increase. These were the signs that he was on the verge of exploding. This occurred at least a couple of times every day, but if we totally avoided him, did not look at him, and nothing disturbed him in any way, his gaze would clear and the bad mood might lift after about 30 minutes. However, some days he could not control himself and he would lash out at whoever or whatever was near him. He would attack and try to bite and severely pinch. It was terrifying to be attacked by him. I told others many times it was like we were living in a war zone. We never knew when his “bomb” would go off, and we walked around holding our breath, trying not to do anything that might set him off. It was a terrible way to live for our whole family. In time, these aggressive episodes occurred about twice a week, at home, school and even in the car.
When Michael was 18, my husband and I heard about a young boy in California who had positive behavioral results from the use of medical marijuana. We decided to try it. Thirty minutes after eating a ½ of a brownie, Michael completely changed. He became so relaxed and happy! My husband and I looked at each other and knew something special was happening. He remained happy and non-aggressive throughout the day. The following day he attended school and a glowing report came home that day! Almost 6 years later, we are still experiencing amazing behavioral results. Michael is extremely large, but this small amount of marijuana is enough to keep him calm and happy throughout the day. Medical marijuana has completely transformed Michael's life and ours. It is the only thing that has ever made a significant, positive change in his life.
Besides the very positive change in behavior, Michael has experienced many other benefits from medical marijuana. His expressive language has increased greatly. He went from being an 18 year old who mainly screamed or vaguely gestured to what he wanted, to a very fun-loving, sweet, and happy 24 year old who makes verbal requests for things he wants and comments about things he sees in his environment or on TV. I believe the marijuana calms his sensory and nervous system down, allowing him to process what is going on in his environment and not be threatened or overwhelmed by it. Because of my experience with Michael, I believe that medical marijuana can help every person with autism, even if they are not aggressive. We have seen such a positive change in Michael, including decreased self-stimulatory behavior, decreased anxiety, decreased gut sensitivity, along with an increased awareness of his environment, and an increase in language. I would also like to add that over the 1st year of utilizing medical marijuana for Michael, I slowly decreased the amount of prescription medication that I gave to him. He is now only taking a piece of cookie or brownie each morning. He is completely off prescription medication and doing fine without them. In addition, we are careful and responsible with the marijuana. We keep the supply of cookies/brownies in our deep freezer, in a locked box, and just remove enough each day for his needs.
If I could go back in time, I would have started this medication for Michael much earlier, at his diagnosis...yes, at age 2 or 3. I believe his life (and our family’s quality of life) would have been completely different and much better. I believe that if Michael had this medication when he was young, he would have been able to benefit from all the intervention given to him, all those years. Instead, his body would not allow him to relax and engage with others and he did not benefit much from interventions and therapies. I want you to know that I am college educated, a PTA mom, and very well respected in my community. I know I am a good mother, and I am so grateful to have tried medical marijuana for my son.