We are always proud to see plant-based wellness help others in our customer reviews. But our hearts lit up when Andrea Beam recently shared an Instagram story about her son JP, a 15-year-old kid with ADHD and autism, who struggles with high anxiety.
“I always planned to take JP off medication when puberty hit. Thankfully, I found EL and their CBD products,” she said in the post.
We called her up to learn more about her and JP’s story.
The two live in Greenville, South Carolina, where she is a writer and blogger and home school teacher to JP.
“He’s kind of quirky,” she said, about her son who loves swimming, hiking, his stuffed animal collection, coding and puzzles. “We went to Cosco and told everybody they could get one thing. He picked a brain-game book,” Andrea said.
Oh, and he loves foxes.
JP was adopted from Guatemala when he was a baby. Andrea’s friends ran a mission in the country and Guatemala is one of the few foreign places where it’s possible to adopt an infant as opposed to an older child, she said. It seemed like fate when she discovered his biological mother picked out the same name as Andrea for the new baby—Joseph. They even spelled it the same English way.
Before switching to writing, Andrea was a special education teacher. From her professional experience, subtle behaviors alerted her to the notion that JP may be different than most kids. Autism affects about 1 in 54 children, and it is four times more common in boys, according to the Centers for Disease Control. He’s high functioning, so less experienced parents may have overlooked the tiny clues.
Even though JP is a healthy kid, anxiety was a battle. It’s a common struggle for people with autism. When Andrea and her husband divorced, those symptoms elevated. He was taking multiple medications, including Prozac, which changed him, she said. He could be kind of angry.
Andrea knew that she wanted to stop medications before he hit puberty. A lot of psycho-semantic drugs have adverse reactions in teens with changing hormones. “In my research, I read a lot of stories of teens who had suicidal tendencies with Prozac, and JP’s doctor said the same thing,” she said.
Andrea was familiar with our cannabinoid products because her sister uses Extract Labs CBD for bipolar disorder. She suggested it may work for JP too. Cannabis research for autism is still in its infancy, but several studies showed positive results. There are a few theories behind why.
According to an article in Psychiatric Times, A Stamford University study revealed children with autism have a significantly lower concentration of anandamide, a “bliss” neurotransmitter that connects to the body’s endocannabinoid system. The ECS is a signaling network that regulates pain, mood, appetite and more. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD bind to the ECS’s CB1 and CB2 receptors and create certain effects.
Some research suggests cannabinoids act similar to our naturally-made anandamide, which is why cannabis may potentially help autistic children with an anandamide deficiency. The article mentions other studies that suggest an ECS imbalance or a possible defect in the oxytocin-driven anandamide signaling system. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that plays a crucial role in social interaction.
Andrea said the CBD doesn’t help the autism itself, but rather the anxiety that often accompanies it.
In terms of efficacy, the article cited a study where 188 patients took a 30 percent CBD and 1.5 percent THC tincture. After six months, 30 percent reported significant improvement while only 8.6 experienced no change. (Twenty-five percent reported side effects. The most common was restlessness.) A 20:1 CBD to THC study that observed 60 autistic children saw an overall 74 percent improvement in a mix of symptoms including self-harm, aggression, hyperactivity, sleep and more. Common side effects included somnolence and reduced appetite.
While the studies did not include a control group and require further research, Andrea and JP’s experience support these findings.
“Don’t get me wrong, he still has symptoms, but it’s helped a lot,” she said.
JP takes the CBD softgels or gummies. Two softgels in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at bedtime.
”I’m definitely not advising families to stop taking medication,” she said. “It was the right course for our family and I’ll never turn back. But everyone should do their own research.”
The one challenge is the price. With insurance, prescribed medications are sometimes more affordable than CBD. It highlights the inadequacy of our medical system’s philosophy that favors refined, isolated drugs compared to natural products. It means that in some cases, Prozac for children is more accessible than plant-based options.
But Andrea said the capsules are worth every penny. With autism and ADHD, JP has a hyper-active mind. “The most profound thing he told me was that his brain feels quiet,” she said.