Two years in, and I’m still flying solo.
By Marie Myung-Ok Lee|Posted Monday, May 16, 2011, at 10:32 AM ET
This is the fourth DoubleX essay from Marie Myung-Ok Lee about treating her autistic son with marijuana. Click here to read her first, second, and third essays.
For two years now, my husband and I have been using medical cannabis—legally—to help soothe our autistic son’s gastrointestinal pain and decrease his concomitant violent behaviors. As I’ve been chronicling in a series of columns for DoubleX, pot has allowed us to bypass the powerful psychotropic drugs that are often used to dull such aggressive outbursts but have a host of serious potential side effects—including permanent tics, diabetes, and death—and did nothing to address J’s pain.
Some of the responses to these columns suggest that I will not be up for Mother of the Year any time soon. “No poor child deserves to be attacked by marijuana when it is SUPPOSED to be protected!” read one such response on the parenting site Babble.com. But I’ve received vociferous support from parents who say that, were they in my situation, they would do the same thing in a heartbeat. I’ve also heard from parents who’ve started using cannabis for their own autistic children, with mostly good results and no serious side effects.
In our case, I would call our experiment a qualified success. Not because cannabis has cured J, who’s now 11, or anything near it. But it’s alleviated some of his severest symptoms so that he, my husband, and I can actually enjoy each other, rather than being held hostage by his autism in a house full of screams, destruction, and three very unhappy people.
Over the years, we’ve experimented with dozens of marijuana strains to find the ones that work best for J, and we continue to fine-tune the formula. Our grower has figured out how to extract the plants’ active properties into an olive oil tincture, which we can administer in precise amounts from a dropper. With more experience, we’ve learned to finesse the dose: more when J appears to be in a lot of pain, less when he’s okay. When the dosing is perfect, J spends three or four hours much more relaxed and engaged than he was before; at night, he sleeps peacefully