Marijuana madness by Nick Buglione
Just six months ago her son, Joey, a 10-year-old with severe autism, weighed just 46 pounds. He stopped eating after the medications he had been taking to control his behavior took away his appetite, according to the Orange County, Calif., mom.
“You could see the bones in his chest and in his arms and legs,” Hester-Perez says. “He had stopped walking and he would bruise very easily.”
But it was medical marijuana, an unorthodox treatment for autism that’s been the center of debate recently, which got her child eating again and changed his life for the better, she says. It was not a decision she made lightly. “I decided to try medical marijuana truly after I exhausted every other treatment,” Hester-Perez says.
About five years ago Joey began exhibiting behaviors typical of children with severe autism—he would hit himself, bang on walls, and throw anything he could get his hands on. “He was very unpredictable,” she says, so much so that she shied away from inviting company over or taking Joey to someone else’s house. “I could no longer socialize with friends or family due to his behavior.”
Hester-Perez tried behavior modification, a gluten-free, casein-free diet, and over 13 different medications with limited success, she says. While some of the medicines managed to reduce Joey’s outbursts, the results were fleeting, according to the mother. “The effects of the medication were temporary. It seems like every three weeks we were either changing the doses or changing the medication, which is normal, but that took a toll on his body,” she says.
All of the medicines—including Ritalin, Focalin and Risperdal—had serious physical side effects on Joey. Thee were facial ticks, seizures and liver damage, but worst of all, a lack of appetite that left Joey emaciated and weak, his mother says.
As grim as the situation was, it was a light-hearted moment with friends that clued Hester-Perez in on the possible benefits of marijuana. “I was sitting around with friends and it started as a joke,” she says. “We were talking about how marijuana users eat, they sit down, they’re very calm, and they’re pleasant to be around.”
Later that night she typed “autism and medical marijuana” into an internet search engine and the name Dr. Bernard Rimland popped up. Rimland is a former director of the Autism Research Institute who wrote about using medical marijuana to treat autism.
“I’m not pro-drug, but I am very much pro-safe and effective treatment, especially in cases when an autistic individual’s behaviors are devastating and do not respond to other interventions,” Rimland once wrote. “Early evidence suggests that medical marijuana may be an effective treatment for autism, as well as being safer than the drugs that doctors routinely prescribe.”
According to the Autism Research Institute, some of the symptoms marijuana has improved in children with autism include anxiety, aggression, panic disorder, tantrums and self-injurious behavior. Though Rimland died in 2006, his ideas continue to draw interest from parents with children on the spectrum.
California is one of 14 states that now allow the use of medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription. After consulting with Joey’s pediatrician, Hester-Perez began administering it to her child by baking it into brownies.
The mother says she noticed an improvement immediately. “Joey was mellow,” she says. “He wanted to sit in his room and play with his toys. Autistic kids don’t want to play with toys. We noticed that he wasn’t on edge as much.”
For the past seven months Joey has been taking one marijuana brownie—about the size of a 50-cent piece—every two to three days. “The other meds I was giving to Joey he would take three times a day and they were not having the same effect as the medical marijuana,” Hester-Perez says.
The improvements continue to be evident, she says, as Joey is now smiling and even attempting to talk—things he never did before. Having appeared on Good Morning America and other media outlets, Hester-Perez is spreading the word about medical marijuana and autism. She has even started her own website, uf4a.org. “There are definitely other parents who are using it but I’m just the only parent that’s gone public,” she says.
Read the whole story at AutismSupportNetwork.com