He has autism and terrible pain. Marijuana is taming his demons.
Last spring, I wrote about applying for a medical marijuana license for my autistic, allergic 9-year-old son, J., in hopes of soothing his gut pain and anxiety, the roots of the behavioral demons that caused him to lash out at others and himself. After reading studies of how cannabis can ease pain and worry, and in consultation with his doctor, we decided to give it a try. A month into daily cannabis tea and mj-oil cookies (my husband discovered his inner baker), I reported, we both felt that J. seemed happier. But it was hard to tell. He'd have a good morning, then at dinner he'd throw his food. Still, we did notice that when he came home from school with stomach pain (he wasn't getting any supplemental cannabis there), he'd run to the kitchen and demand his tea and cookie. As if he knew this was the stuff that dulled the hellish gut pangs.
How is J. doing now, four months into our cannabis experiment? Well, one day recently, he came home from school, and I noticed something really different: He had a whole shirt on.
Pre-pot, J. ate things that weren't food. There's a name for this: pica. (Pregnant women are known to pica on chalk and laundry starch.) J. chewed the collar of his T-shirts while stealthily deconstructing them from the bottom up, teasing apart and then swallowing the threads. By the time I picked him up from the bus stop after school, the front half of his shirt was gone. His pica become so uncontrollable we couldn't let him sleep with a pajama top (it would be gone by morning) or a pillow (ditto the case and the stuffing). An antique family quilt was reduced to fabric strips, and he even managed to eat holes in a fleece blanketso much for his organic diet. I started dressing him only in organic cotton shirts, but we couldn't support the cost of a new one every day. The worst part was watching him scream in pain on the toilet, when what went in had to come out. I had nightmares about long threads knotting in digestive organs. (TMI? Welcome to our life!)
Almost immediately after we started the cannabis, the pica stopped. Just stopped. J. now sleeps with his organic wool-and-cotton, hypoallergenic, temptingly chewable comforter. He pulls it up to his chin at night and declares, "I'm cozy!"
Next, we started seeing changes in J.'s school reports. His curriculum is based on a therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis, which involves, as the name implies, meticulous analysis of data. At one parent meeting in August (J. is on an extended school year), his teacher excitedly presented his June-July "aggression" chart. An aggression is defined as any attempt or instance of hitting, kicking, biting, or pinching another person. For the past year, he'd consistently had 30 to 50 aggressions in a school day, with a one-time high of 300. The charts for June through July, by contrast, showed he was actually having dayssometimes one after anotherwith zero aggressions.