Autism and Cannabis: My Personal Experience as an Autistic Person Using Medical Cannabis for My Co-occurring Conditions
I take medical cannabis to regulate some of the common co-occurring conditions associated with being Autistic, NOT for my “Autism.”
This week’s reader-requested content comes from one of my Substack subscribers in the exclusive subscriber chat.
One of my subscribers wanted to know about Autism and Cannabis use, and, per request, I am happy to share my personal experience as a long-term medical user.
Weed, pot, cannabis, marijuana, and the Devil’s Lettuce…
What do YOU call it? What’s your favorite name for this green leafy plant?
Cannabis has been illegal in America at the federal level since 1937, but before that, this plant was used in herbal medicine for centuries.
The US government used racist propaganda to fuel the country’s fear of the plant (and those who used it). They emphasized the Spanish word “marihuana” instead of cannabis, creating strong associations between the plant and Mexican immigrants who helped popularize it.
During The Great Depression (1929 - 1941), migrant workers from Mexico suddenly found themselves unwelcome) in the United States.
Since many migrant laborers smoked marihuana, it was thought that banning marijuana would encourage them to leave the US.
First disclaimer of the post: Though my experience has been positive… cannabis is NOT for everyone.
It might not be for you, even though it works well for me.
I know multiple Autistic People who cannot handle cannabis in any form, regardless of strain, including CBD, because of terrible reactions to it.
This article is JUST my personal experience and is NOT intended to be medical advice.
Legal language required by the US government below:
“The efficacy of these cannabis has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. The FDA does NOT recommend that you use cannabis to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The FDA advises against the use of cannabis products for those who are pregnant or nursing.”
I’m creating a new community outside of social media on Substack (where I can have more control over my space), and I hope you’ll join me as a free member (but I also have paid subscriptions if you want access to bonus content).
I also feel it is imperative to make a statement that, though Autism is listed as a “Qualifying Condition” for medical cannabis in many states (even Texas), it is only ONE of the MULTIPLE qualifying conditions I have.
Many Autistic People who qualify for medical cannabis because of an Autism diagnosis will also be eligible based on other conditions common in Autistics.
I also, like many Autistic People, have lots of allergies to medications/history of medications not working the same way as they do on other people.
Many medications do not work for me or have horrible side effects.
I was raised with plant medicines of many kinds, and I’ve always had a love and awe for them since my grandmother first put aloe vera on my skinned knees.
Plant medicine has been much gentler on me, allowing me to avoid a long list of prescriptions that made me ill, and plant medicines (of all varieties, especially cannabis) have been a special interest of mine for many years.
I view this plant (and several others) as sacred earth medicine(s). It is one of many gifts nature gives us.
I take medical cannabis to regulate some of the common co-occurring conditions associated with being Autistic, NOT “FOR my Autism.”
In addition to being Autistic, other qualifying medical conditions I have (that are common in Autistic People) include (but are not limited to) the list below.
I, personally use medical cannabis for:
Sensory overload (from triggers many people can ignore)
Migraine - induced by sensory triggers, lack of sleep, or stress
Seizures - induced my stress, lack of sleep, or sensory triggers
ARFID/trouble eating/feeling hungry
Generalized Anxiety and Social Anxiety
Chronic pain (from injuries due to hyper-mobility)
These co-occurring conditions or co-morbidities are the reason for my medical cannabis use.
When I take my green medicine, I am calmer (and more comfortable) but still just as Autistic as I am without it.
Medical cannabis is not a “treatment” for Autism. However, in a medical context, NeuroDivergence is almost always described based on how a person’s NeuroDivergence “inconveniences others” (because we ask the NeuroTypicals to flex their standard ways of doing things to accommodate us).
I “am less of an inconvenience to others” when I have my medicine because I feel better.
The medicine helps free up space in my brain (allowing me to think more clearly and calmly than I can when I’m uncomfortable).
An outsider might say that I am more “manageable.” I can manage myself better when medicated, BUT I choose to medicate myself.
One of my biggest fears, and why I’ve hesitated even to write this for years, is the fear of Autistics being medicated with cannabis without their consent because it makes them “more manageable” (without consideration to how dosages can be too much for Autistics) - especially considering the stories I’ve heard from Autistics close to me who have significant struggles with this plant.
“Manageable” can be calm and happy (if I am managing myself), but I also remember a time (when I was younger) when adults thought me “shut down” and “quiet” was me being “manageable.”
Do people medicating others REALLY know the difference between the two? OR do they want us quiet, still, and manageable?
Even as an experienced medical user, the timing, strain, and dosage are very personal and take a while to get right.
I can’t imagine having someone else “dose me” with random strains (as they would likely get the dosages and strains wrong depending on the situation).
Remember, I said earlier that cannabis is NOT for everyone.
Fortunately for me (since many medications don’t work right in my case), this plant has worked well.
Something about this plant soothes my overactive nervous system.
I struggle with sensory and emotional energy regulation.
I struggle waking up in the morning and going to bed at night.
I struggle with having too much energy in my body (radiating out of me in my stims and movements) or not enough (weighing me down) leaving me stuck.
Cannabis, for me, is a regulator.
Strains, timing, and dosage are crucial in using this plant as a regulation tool. Getting it wrong won’t help me and can even make me feel worse, but it is perfection if I get it right.
With my nervous system dialed down, the sensory onslaught becomes less intense, and my brain (which generally is racing due to a combination of Anxiety and ADHD) slows to a pace more in line with the people around me.
My thoughts are slowed enough to catch myself and react less impulsively than usual, and my stims become more subdued and discrete, and less noticeable and “disruptive,” to those around me (because I have less excess energy pulsing through me, I don’t have as much need to stim.
My mental resources are freed up because I am more relaxed and comfortable.
It’s incredible how much clearer I can think and how much more engaged with the world around me I can be when I am not worried about some painful sensation taking up half my brain power, distracting me from the present moment.
#ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics and other NeuroDivergent People - do you use cannabis or have you ever tried it? What is/was your experience like?
NeuroDivergent Rebel’s Substack is a reader-supported publication. Paid subscribers are able to read the rest of this post as a thanks for their support.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial