Parents Use Medical Marijuana for Son’s Autistic Rage

spoonA family in Oregon is using a non-traditional source of medication to manage their son’s medical conditions. He is severely autistic, and has had incidents of rage. He also has Tuberous Sclerosis. The parents are using medical marijuana as a form of treatment.

Alex Echols is eleven years old. He is severely autistic, and has exhibited self-destructive behavior. This behavior has been described as rage.

Alex also has Tuberous Sclerosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a complex and rare genetic disease. It causes benign (or noncancerous) lesions to grow in many parts of the body. The lesions can appear on the skin, or in the brain or kidneys. Symptoms can include patches of light-colored skin, seizures, or behavior problems.

His parents, Jeremy and Karen Echols, note that Alex started hurting himself when he was three years old. By age 5, his self-destructive incidents of rage had escalated. He would head-butt things so hard that his forehead would bruise and his entire face became black and blue. The Echols got Alex a helmet to protect his head.

The violent behavior did not stop, even after the use of mood-altering drugs to control the behavior. By the time Alex was 8 years old, the Echols considered moving him to a state-funded group home. They didn’t want to, but saw no other alternative.

Then, the Echols saw a news story that talked about an autistic boy who lived in California. He received medical marijuana and appeared to be benefiting from it. In 2010, a doctor approved Alex for medical marijuana use. He is now one of 58 minors who are currently protected under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

It is worth noting that Alex did not qualify simply because he has autism. Instead, it was the seizures that he experiences as a symptom of Tuberous Sclerosis that enabled him to qualify for the medical marijuana treatment. Alex receives medical marijuana in liquid form 3 times a week from his parents. The staff at the group home will not administer it to him.

Alex’s parents stress that the controversial form of treatment has improved Alex’s condition, but have not cured his symptoms. He still experiences rage, and seizures. There is a dramatic improvement, though. Jeremy Echols said:

He went from being completely, yelling, screaming, bloodying his face, to within an hour, hour and a half, he would be playing with toys, using his hands. Something that at the time was almost unheard of.

Image by Enrique_ on Flickr