Can Medical Marijuana Help Calm Autism Symptoms?

Erica Daniels has tried everything for her autistic son. The two things that worked well are what no doctor would prescribe – a better diet and cannabinoid medicine.

Cooking with Leo

Hope Grows for Autism

Transcript

Dr Bill Ferro: Okay, welcome to the Quacks and Hypochondriacs Podcast.

I’m your host, Dr. Bill Ferro. I started my career as a chiropractor in health clubs, turned into a gut health expert. So believe it or not, I’ve been called a quack a time or two in my life. On this podcast, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on the so-called quacks of the world, quackery claims who you should and shouldn’t listen to and why sometimes hypochondriacs have every right to be paranoid about their health. Now with me today is my cohost Erin O’Hearn. She is an ABC news anchor, mom of three, tequila drinker, and fitness fanatic. Erin, how’s it going in Philly this week?

Erin O’Hearn: I don’t know. How’s it going in wherever you are?

Dr Bill Ferro: We’re about to put up a board strapped to my feet and go down to the a hundred miles an hour down this hill. You were just in this neck of the woods, you were just in Breckenridge.

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah we were. We were in Breckeridge for six days and it was beautiful. So to come back to Philadelphia where it’s just mud and grass is really fantastic. But Breck was good. I always, I like coming home, but I miss it out there. It’s so pretty. Weed’s legal recreationally, so that’s a plus.

Dr Bill Ferro: Perfect. Well, that’s why I had to come to the weed capital now to see for myself. There are currently 11 states where recreational marijuana is illegal, but right now, 47 out of 50 states allow some form of medical use.

Erin, did you know that Pennsylvania is one of those States?

Erin O’Hearn: I did. In fact, I’m a patient here.

Dr Bill Ferro: Okay. And do you know anyone who uses it to treat a current condition?

Erin O’Hearn: Myself, my friend Erica Daniels. Actually lots of people I know.

Dr Bill Ferro: Really? Interesting. I don’t think I know anybody, truthfully.

Erin O’Hearn: Are you serious?

Dr Bill Ferro: Yeah, I don’t.

Erin O’Hearn: Really? Hmm.

Dr Bill Ferro: Yeah. Maybe, maybe I never asked them, maybe they never volunteered it, but —

Erin O’Hearn: It’s still taboo. I think that’s why.

Dr Bill Ferro: Okay.

Erin O’Hearn: And plus people aren’t waving around their medical conditions and saying, I treat it with medical cannabis.

Dr Bill Ferro: I know, but everybody tells me everything.

We’re gonna bring Erica on in a minute. But before we get into that, let’s tell you about our quack tales, which is brought to you by our sponsor, Betr Health, betrhealth.com.

What an amazing name for a company, who would ever try to spell it the right way? B-E-T-R so much easier, faster. I love it. Each week we’re going to tell you about a historic miracle cure that turned out to be misinformation, a hoax or a methodical get rich-quick scheme. That one’s tough off the tongue. So we are going to talk about this first one here. So Erin, if you could just tell us something called Just What The Doctor Ordered.

Erin O’Hearn: Just What The Doctor Ordered, all right. You ready for this? Actually I’ve heard of this quite a bit, but in 1951, L and M Filler Tip ads said, despite the fact that tobacco factory chemist knew that the filters had no more effect in removing nicotine and tar from cigarettes, practitioners were encouraged to recommend cigarette brands to patients with coughs and other complaints.

So essentially doctors were prescribing people to smoke cigarettes. And I believe it was also used as a way to relieve constipation. That was another way in which cigarettes were prescribed as “medicine.” So now we know that this was one big, what would you say Billy? One big hoax?

Well, it’s one big crack and the tobacco industry, just everyone bought into it, including practitioners, which hasn’t gone away. Doctors buy into a lot of things that companies tell them when they know it’s wrong.

Dr Bill Ferro: It’s funny because I’m a chiropractor and they call us quacks.

Erin O’Hearn: Right.

Dr Bill Ferro: And yet I never told anyone they should smoke.

Erin O’Hearn: You also, weren’t a doctor in 1951.

Dr Bill Ferro: That is true. That is true. Yeah. I have this weird feeling that the body can heal itself and you don’t need cigarettes, but anyway, that’s for another day.

Erin O’Hearn: Apparently cigarettes were the end all be all, and the cure all. And you enjoyed it when you were fixing your ailments.

I’m going to jump ahead though, too, because I think this brings up two points, is that there has to be some sort of evolution with health. Right? And what’s good for you and what isn’t and in the same sense that we understand cigarettes are no longer good for us or they don’t cure anything.

There are some things that maybe have been labeled in the more recent past as not good for you, which actually are. Does that make sense? So it works both ways. So as a society, we’re constantly evolving and as a medical community, we constantly should be evolving too, but people seem really stuck in their ways these days.

Dr Bill Ferro: Absolutely.

Erin O’Hearn: Okay. I have a story about a cigarette in college, but I’ll tell it for another time.

I’ll save it for another time. It has to do with that. It had to do a mouse who basically gave up because I think it was getting burned by cigarette butts so much. Like we were just throwing them on the ground and we even scared the mice away from our tiny apartment.

Dr Bill Ferro: So that was the long version brought to you by our sponsor, Betr Health. A gut first food is medicine approach to whole person health. You know there’s someone there at Betr Health that saw, Hey, this is some quackery.

What is this guy talking about, this Dr. Ferro guy, that can help you restore it and reduce anxiety, inflammation, and weight and pain and all that stuff. But 25,000 members strong, Betr Health is providing a nourishing plan and a community. I think our community is the most important to improving physical and mental health.

Not only that, but Betr Health is trusted by the CDC. Yes. We’re recognized, fully recognized program by the CDC to delay Type Two Diabetes. So if you want to prove your physical, mental health today, visit betrhealth.com and try it risk-free for 30 days, but don’t try to get your money back ’cause I’m not not giving it back no matter what.

Okay. Our guest interview. Let’s get to our guest Erica Daniels, has been working to bring awareness to autism since 2010. In 2016, she founded Hope Grows for Autism. With the mission to improve the lives of families affected by autism, through research, education, and advocacy of natural treatments. Erica, welcome to the show.

Erica Daniels: Thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be here.

Erin O’Hearn: Hi Erica.

Erica Daniels: Hi Erin.

Dr Bill Ferro: So Erica and Erin go, go way back. And so I really want you to take the lead on this, Erin, even though you’re going into any way, whether I asked you to or not.

Why don’t you open us up here and get us started?

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah. Okay. When we were talking about guests to have onto the show, and, CBD oil, medical cannabis, comes up every once in awhile when you’re talking about health and, and new ways to treat different diseases, especially, or conditions, especially when we’re talking about gut health and things like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which I have.

So I was thinking well, who better to come onto the show than my friend, Erica, who actually I met I think in 2017, 2016, and actually I was interviewing her because she had just come out with a cookbook called Cooking with Leo. And Erica, I remember the reason I came was because the cookbook just came out.

And you had found that Leo really benefited from changing his diet because he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 18 months, correct? 21 months, 21 months. Okay. And he was having a lot of allergic reactions and gastrointestinal problems, which is common with autism.

Erica Daniels: Yes, absolutely.

Erin O’Hearn: And you kind of reworked everything similar to the program, that Dr. Ferro started, The Betr Program, but what did you do to sort of change his diet and really your whole family’s diet and what kind of improvements did you see in his health?

Erica Daniels: Right. Well, you’re right, Erin, a lot of people with autism have GI issues and food allergies and generally other comorbid conditions.

It started with reflux and constipation when Leo was very little. Leo is my son. He’s 15 now. Holy cow. And when he was a year old, the pediatrician said, oh, sure, give him some peanut butter. So I did, I went home, made a peanut butter sandwich. Boom. Full anaphylaxis. Going to the emergency room, happened.

That was really my first discovery that there were food issues or allergy issues. And then from there it just seemed like no matter what he ate, there was always some sort of reaction or swelling around the eyes or GI discomfort. I really had to relearn, I grew up in a house where back to the cigarettes, my mom was smoking and making macaroni and cheese and all these fun seventies, eighties meals that we had. And my mom’s a really good cook. I come from a family Jewish and Italian. It’s all about food, right?

The peanut allergy diagnosis can be for the autism diagnosis. Right? So it was to me at the time, the worst thing in the world, I had to figure out how to read labels. Now they make it easy. They put the allergens on the bottom. But really the GI issues were extremely significant. We went to our typical mainstream doctors and they said, give him some fiber, do this.

We ended up with a specialist who did a scope and they said, wow, he’s really got lesions. He’s inflamed. There’s a lot going on here. So we literally had to travel to places like New York and Boston to see specialists who actually acknowledged the problem. And didn’t think it was quackery.

To sort of get the theme here. It’s in the autism community that there’s word quack comes up all the time. There’s a lot of that. So I had to learn how to make everything, not just allergen-free, but healthy, out of whole foods. And it’s basically the theory became: there’s no such thing as junk food, it’s either junk or it’s food. Right? And we did some really extensive, significant diets that helped you have to stop the cycle of the inflammation, is really what you have to do with diet. And a lot of people don’t get that and they say, well, I try to avoiding dairy for a week or whatever the case may be.

But really taking all of our family recipes and making them allergen-free and made with whole foods and healthy ingredients was the mission of Cooking with Leo. And then what I discovered during that process that he really liked to cook and he really liked to be in the kitchen. So it became a bonding thing for us where we hadn’t had any kind of connection or bonding before. Leo didn’t speak until he was five. He would go around the kitchen and bang on the pots. And even to this day, I don’t think there’s anything he enjoys more than cooking.

Erin O’Hearn: And I can attest to that. He loves cooking. It was so funny because what makes this so interesting is when I was interviewing Erica for the cookbook, I met Leo and I think you were still struggling with some of his behavior and at me, he clearly felt at home and comfortable and comfortable in his own skin in the kitchen, but I don’t really know how the transition came about, but we were talking about like making a plate of strawberries and blueberries and gluten-free crackers. And then all of a sudden it was like, Oh, if you ever want to talk about marijuana, I’m like what? And so I said, I don’t know how that relates, but I really don’t remember Erica, how it came up, but I started asking you about it and you were like I found this and it really works. So I want to differentiate because the cookbook and the redesign that Erica did, which by the way, was that encouraged by your doctors or did they want to just do a quick fix with Leo as far as his gastrointestinal issues and his allergies?

Erica Daniels: It was encouraged by doctors who I had to spend a lot of time seeking out who almost went out and had to put themselves on the line to treat kids that were really suffering. When we went to our traditional pediatric GI specialists, literally I came home with a handout on fiber.

Erin O’Hearn: Really? That was it.

Erica Daniels: That was it.

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah. And like a prescription for MiraLax or something.

Erica Daniels: Oh, it’s all about the MiraLax. It’s so sad. Actually. It’s a chronic condition. It’s not even just kids or people with autism. I know so many kids, a friend of mine, all three kids are on MiraLax.

Erin O’Hearn: Oh yeah. And that’s fair. That’s their band. I mean, that’s their crutch now they have to use it. So the problem here or Erica’s dilemma was twofold. It was first fixing Leo’s physical health. And I think everyone can relate to this, right? When you have two different issues going on first, you have to fix what’s going on in the inside.

And you really work from is like gut outwards. Right? So you got that under control by engaging Leo in the kitchen, creating this cookbook where you just reinvented some of your family recipes. But some of the behaviors and the stress on you as a parent who also had another child to raise, we’re not easing as Leo got older and he was starting to get bigger and stronger.

And it almost appeared that when I saw Leo and I actually saw in one of his, it was like a fit. I mean, I’m just going to be honest. He could not, he didn’t like me. I think he was very afraid of someone coming in, who he didn’t know, but it was hard.

It was hard to communicate. It was hard to calm him down. Talk a little bit about what was the breaking point for you and when you decided to look into an alternative medicine, which is what this is by the way. He’s on medicine.

Erica Daniels: Yes. And we use the term cannabinoid medicine. So we stay away from the word marijuana for a variety of reasons and the history of the word and, and all those sorts of things.

But really in the past year, I’ve really been using the word cannabinoid medicine, because the way we look at it and the way we use it is actually medicine. And he doesn’t smoke it. I mean, that’s one of the myths that people don’t get, they think kids with autism work or pediatric patients are smoking weed.

They’re not, they’re taking medicine, it’s typically in a tincture form or capsule or something like that. But I was able to really help Leo’s GI issues and calmed down his stomach. However the outward symptoms of his autism for a variety of reasons were increasing and he would have these meltdowns and I I’m going to differentiate between a tantrum and a meltdown.

Right? So a tantrum might be like, what you think of a spoiled kid having a fit because they can’t get a toy in the store or something like that. And a meltdown is really when we’re so upset that we can’t control. We don’t even know why we’re upset anymore. And there’s no behavioral method that can really stop that or work that out.

I would say in, in 2016, he starting to get older. He was 11 years old. And the anxiety. He still struggled significantly with OCD and anxiety, but the anxiety was so tremendous that he would have these meltdowns. It could be 30 minutes to two, three hours, five, six times a week, yelling, screaming, crying, throwing himself down on the floor.

And as you get older and you’re not a toddler, A that’s dangerous and scary. And B, you could hurt yourself. I mean, there’s kids that hit themselves. It’s really, really awful. So I had heard in the newspaper that Pennsylvania passed their medical marijuana program. Learning about natural health and things like that for autism, I had never come across cannabinoid medicine, never. Nobody brought it up, but once I started researching, I learned that people were using it and they just weren’t talking about it. They were already using it. And in the beginning it was so secret. It was so on the down-low. I didn’t tell anyone. I told one person, I told my very best friend and I would call her.

There was nowhere for me to get it or buy it, literally. I read and I said, okay, I’m going to try this at home. And I’m going to see if it works. And then if it works, I’m going to go find what I think is a good medicine for him. So literally in the beginning I had to call,  the most legit a dealer that I knew from the illicit market.

And I went, I remember going to the basement and looking through all of this stuff and having these long conversations with this guy. And I came home with something in it called girl scout cookies. I took a little bit, it was like gel kind of, or like a sticky material and I gave it to him and then that first day he literally, and Erin, you know this cause you’ve seen it and sat down on the couch next to me, he watched a movie, he was calm, he was comfortable and he was happy. So from there I just was on a mission to, okay, how do I do this legitimately? What does that look like? I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell my parents.

I didn’t tell school. And then people started asking what’s going on with Leo. Something’s different. And I slowly started talking about it because even though I was doing it legally within the state of Pennsylvania, it’s still very dangerous.

I started talking about it a little bit. And then other parents started, we became this underground railroad of parents, sort of taking turns, traveling to Colorado and California and bringing back medicine for our kids.

Erin O’Hearn: It’s an incredible story, isn’t it?

From Breckenridge?

Dr Bill Ferro: All right, I’m going to go back. You did the digestive health approach, figured out these issues, which my son had a very similar peanut allergy. When he was a baby, we’re bandaging him up and all they would give him is more cortisone, and things like that.

And eventually my wife was breastfeeding. She didn’t think about it, but she was getting up every morning having the rice cakes and putting peanut butter on it. Cause she’s a newscaster like Erin, she worked the morning show. So only thing she’d get quick and easy that would fill her up and sure enough, he’s having this horrible reaction.

You take him everywhere. And at the time I was taking people through my protocol, but I didn’t really realize I was actually helping their gut health, I thought I was just helping people with weight loss through this process. And so for my own son, I had to sit there and bandage him for months and months until we finally realized, all right, let’s go get him tested.

We just took the peanuts. I just said, just hit try two days. And cause  you don’t necessarily always think that that something that little could cause this catastrophic effect on the skin. Right. You think, no, I just need more lotion and oils. And then we did it. And within two days his skin cleared up and that’s what kind of always put me on the quest like of this gut brain connection and how important it is.

So you did all of those things. You got his gut health as best you can, does that also include you adding in things like fruits, prebiotics, and probiotics, and like kefir and kimchi, and is he still on a steady steady dose of that type of thing?

Erica Daniels: What’s interesting is that since I added, he’s also 15, so he’s a little more defiant in that he wants to eat stuff, and that’s going on too.

But what’s interesting is when I added the cannabinoid medicine, he was able to tolerate more foods. I mean, in particular, gluten, I can’t explain that maybe you can, doctor. But he was able to tolerate more foods, now when he gets crazy, he’ll eat once in a while and he’ll have some special meals or whatever the case may be.

But we do try to keep a very whole foods, healthy diet, and that’s for the whole family, because I couldn’t be making meals for, this one wants that, and that one wants this. Screw that. Yeah. But yeah, absolutely.

Dr Bill Ferro: And had you, prior to his birth, had you experienced eczema psoriasis or any type of other digestive health issues?

Was he a natural or C-section?

Erica Daniels: He was an emergency C-section. So I think he had a lot of trauma. My water broke very early and he was sort of stuck in the birth canal for a very long time. So for failure to progress, he had an emergency C-section. When he came out, he was swollen, his head was swollen.

Literally had I known what I know now, I might’ve done things differently and I did everything differently with my second child. And she didn’t have, because of her allergies, she didn’t have foods until after a year old. And she was on a special formula from the beginning. Cause we have a significant milk allergy too.

Dr Bill Ferro: The fetal microbiome is basically neutral. Right? It’s sterile. The mom passes along and most of that happens during vaginal birth. So there’s a big correlation. I’m not gonna say that someone’s going to hammer me for that. I’ve noticed folks that come to me and have digestive issues, oftentimes their C-section and then on top of that, they already had an inherent food allergy or something like that.  Is it really a food allergy or is the fact that they did not have the microbiome developed early to develop these systems to reduce that inflammation? Because as you mentioned, it’s all about the inflammation.

There is a lot of you know, thought around what happens if you don’t have that vaginal experience with that you can pass off that, here’s your start. That’s why they call it mother. Right? It’s the starter of your bacteria colony, which you have 10 trillion cells in your body of 300 trillion bacteria.

If that’s the case, there’s evidence that say, well, I’m going to start this person, this child off quickly with kefir and things that are going to help repopulate that bacteria. So that is interesting. And then as you went through this cycle, then you get to the point where the amount of frustration, we all feel frustrated with children. So imagine all of us having these, Erin, myself, having our days with our kids that you’re like, Oh my God. And then yours is a thousand times fold that. Right? I have a friend who has three children and two of them are autistic, and one of them’s completely non-verbal.

And sometimes, chasing down the block and all of these things, so then you get to this point and you’re like, well, I’m thinking about using, the cannaboid for medical therapy. And how do you hold yourself back if someone gives you like the weird eye, you’re like, really? You wouldn’t last one day.

Erica Daniels: I learned early on having a child with special needs and look, my first experience I shared with you, we went to our typical doctor, I won’t say where, GI specialist and they gave us a handout on fiber. So I learned early on that I had to prove or go in with evidence. When I went to the pediatrician to tell them, and I wanted to share with them the success we were having with cannabinoid medicine.

I did  a mini study. So I did a behavioral rating scale before treatment and I did one 30 days later. I printed that out. I brought that with me. I also brought a syringe of cannabis medicine and of course at the doctor, kids are at their most stressed, especially a special needs child who’s been poked and prodded their whole lives, and they often have trauma associated with going to doctors. He was having a hard time. I gave it to him right in front of her. And she was amazed. And the thing is for me, I am strong-willed enough to do these things and I know enough. And it’s also the danger piece.

I know that I have to have backup for my backup or else, I don’t want to be reported or to lose my child. And she basically said to me, she trusts me. She didn’t know anything about it, but she trusts me. That was big, so I would encourage other parents to do the same and it’s unfortunate they go, and the doctor just says, no, we don’t have enough research.

Erin O’Hearn: Right. That’s the funny thing that you say that because when that point comes up, consistently, and it does in the medical community. We can’t condone this because there’s not enough research. Right? Well, they have done plenty of research on the anti-psychotic drugs that are often prescribed to children on the spectrum.

And what that does. The epilepsy drugs that are prescribed, those cause children to go into puberty early, they cause vegetative states. One of the things that you said when you first gave a dose to Leo, was that he was happy. He wasn’t sitting there staring into space. He was happy and more engaged because whatever is going on in his head was calmed for a bit.

I think with this whole being judged or somebody giving you the side eye, one of the reasons that I admire Erica so much is because the exhaustion that comes along with raising a child in itself is sometimes too much to handle. When you have a child that you know is suffering and no one is giving you an answer on how to help them, and I’m only saying this because of what you’ve told me, because I don’t, I didn’t experience this personally. And I don’t want to pretend I know. But it will bring you to the brink. And I think that, you’ve said to me a few times, it’s you feel like you’re stuck and that you’re in this constant state of grief and the fact that you were able to see outside of that and have the courage to say, you know what, I’m doing this my way because it’s my child and no one’s offering me anything else. And I have to find the path that’s right for me and right for him. I think that anyone who judges that has a lot of nerve, frankly, because why wouldn’t you do anything you could to help your child and to have that weight on you, weighing the risk and the benefit, and really not knowing and having no guidance, I think is extraordinarily stressful as well.

It’s one thing to experiment on yourself. It’s one thing to say, I can’t, this is my only choice. It’s my last resort and it has, I need it to work.

Dr Bill Ferro: You probably yourself don’t find this impressive, right? Because you’re just, you would do, anyone would do for their kid, but you got on a plane.

You risked getting in trouble, right? You’re getting caught doing this. Did you rehearse, like what happens if they come? Are you gonna run for the door? Are you’re going to go all Scarface on them saying, Say hello to my little friends.

Erica Daniels: I don’t know if this was smart or not, but I made it into more of a social justice moment too. And I made sure that it worked before I took that risk. And I had some very good friends and moms, and I had two or three lawyers ready to go on speed dial. And I actually decided to do it on television. I documented it on a show called Lita Kit.

Herb for Autism was the episode that aired. And they followed me traveling and of course it was sensationalized a bit, like this mom is smuggling weed!

Dr Bill Ferro: Did you think through this? Like, are you going to be cool? Are you going to put yourself in a position where it’s like, I have to look like I’m on a jury and did you that you think of any of these things?

Erica Daniels: I did not. I pretty much grabbed the warmest clothes I could find. I was going to the top of the Rocky Mountains.

I had never been there before. I stayed in Breckenridge and we drove up through South Park, which is an actual real place, I didn’t know that until I had been there, literally, it was a really like spiritual experience, I got a little spiritual for a while there. And I was going to find the Holy Grail of cannabis for autism.

And I came back and I brought a few for some other moms and some other kids that I know. And for me doing it publicly and showing that, I’m just a mom, I’m not a criminal. I’m not a druggie. I’m not a quack. Right. I’m just a mom and something so natural that works I had to get on a plane and break federal law to go and get this. This is ridiculous.

Erin O’Hearn: You almost reverse psychology. I’m going to put myself out there before I get caught, because you’re going to look really ridiculous if you take me in and arrest or charge me. Yeah.

Erica Daniels: I did. I thought that through, okay so you’re going to arrest a mom and look, I’m sure it’s happened.

I also knew, and I called the airports ahead of time. I knew what the laws were. And so when I flew out of Denver, I knew for example, well, maybe at the time it was different, but now it’s a lot of the airports have where you just have to get rid of it. You’re not going to get where you get a fine.

Erin O’Hearn: They throw it out.

Dr Bill Ferro: Did that call go something like if I were to smuggle weed in and I got caught, what would I have to do? Asking for a friend?

Erica Daniels: If it wasn’t asking for a friend, but it was like very down low phone calls. I literally had like three lawyers that were ready to jump in. But I did get really nervous, I’m traveling and I have this bag and I mean, it was all over me. It was in my carry on. It was in my suitcase.

Dr Bill Ferro: It’s like Locked Up Abroad when they show the guy’s getting all nervous going through.

Erica Daniels: And they have the dogs that are going back and forth and smelling and you’re just like, Oh my God, does somebody know what’s going on?

I had conversations when I was in Colorado, what are the risks? If it comes through and they find it in Pennsylvania, I’m protected under my medical cannabis card. But yeah, they’re at the time, four years ago, it was not as common as it is now, even just the four years.

There was definitely risks and I was willing to take those because I knew how well it worked. My child was unhappy and then he was happy. Okay. That’s just one piece of it. And, you go to the pediatrician or the developmental pediatrician or any psychologist, psychiatrist on these behavioral health programs that they give you when you have autism, I mean, they’ll write a prescription for anything.

Dr Bill Ferro: Exactly. Totally.

Erin O’Hearn: Make it go away, make it go away and throwing darts in the wind.

The one thing I will say is that, just pointing out the ridiculousness of the federal laws and where we are is, well, first of all, there are studies going on right now by reputable organizations.

And to say, Oh, well, it’s okay to give it to your kid in your house. But if you try to take your child to Florida for vacation, or you try to drive to Delaware, you could get arrested and you can’t do that. That’s like the ridiculousness of the law, right? They’re cherry picking when and when you can’t help your child essentially. So the reason that’s so dangerous is because, and every state has their own laws.

I don’t know how many States at this point, Erica have autism as a qualifying condition?

Erica Daniels: There’s I think, close to 20 that either have autism as a qualifying condition or have some language where there’s a comorbid condition or if you have a chronic debilitating condition that you’ve tried everything else and it doesn’t work.

Erin O’Hearn: So here’s the thing, Erica was lucky in the sense that she lived in a state where autism was a qualifying condition for medical marijuana cards. So in a sense, you were able to take the time to educate yourself and frankly provide Leo with pure medicine.

You weren’t guessing at the beginning, I think you experimented with what worked and what didn’t, but you weren’t buying it off the black market.

Erica Daniels: Well, I was. I was in the beginning. Which was a mistake. I will say that now.

Erin O’Hearn: Can you elaborate on that? Because the issue is that there are so many other parents who have similar journeys to yours, who aren’t able to get access to the right kind of medicine.

So they’re becoming so desperate because they see the transformation that Leo has. They want that for their child, but they’re not allowed. And so they turn to maybe the black market where there are a lot of quacks and you could be potentially hurting your child.

Erica Daniels: In the beginning, here’s what happens. So you can get autism as a qualifying condition, your state, and you can find a doctor who will certify your child or whoever it is that has autism, but then there’s nothing, even if the state has a functioning, medical marijuana program, like in New Jersey for example, what happened in Pennsylvania in the beginning is parents, they were being given vape pens are so I’m having a nervous breakdown because that’s not how it should be. So there’s also then this big lack of appropriate medicines available for patients with autism or for really any other conditions.

I mean, smoking weed or smoking cannabis is a good way to get the reactions or get the benefit or quickly, right? I think that’s why people smoke it, who are using it medicinally. But really, ingesting it and taking it as a medicine is much more effective. Then you have this lack of, okay, now the parents are fighting at the Capitol and they get access to it, but there’s nothing for them to use. So they still have to travel. I remember we were never able to go anywhere, because of cannabis we went for our first time to Disney orld. Now I’m in Disney World with my little like spritzer, pushing Leo around and the irony is you are not allowed to bring cannabis Disney. But we couldn’t go without cannabis. So, there were some times where I’ve been a little bold about it, but yeah.

Dr Bill Ferro: If I had the spritzer and I was at target and someone was giving me a problem, I’d be like hold on a second. Okay. Now, can we have this conversation again?

Erin O’Hearn: Also if Disney World really wants the label, the happiest place on earth, then they really should allow the brand promise.

Dr Bill Ferro: Erica, if I’m at home, I have a child with autism and maybe some other things and I’m like, Oh, tell us your website again.

Erica Daniels: Hopegrowsforautism.org.

Dr Bill Ferro: Right. So here’s the hope grows, right? So they have this hope now they’re sitting listening to this. If they go there, will that give them information on, this is what to look out for, this is what not to get, and it does give them information so that they can, as you said, even if they get it approved, they’re still kind of lost.

Is that what your organization’s about?

Erica Daniels: Yeah. Our organization is about helping people learn about medical cannabis for autism, helping them access medical cannabis for autism. And we really focus on education. There’s a fabulous doctor. Her name is Dr. Bonnie Goldstein and she’s in California.

Unfortunately, I wish she was here and we just had her recently for a webinar and just the information. And she’s been treating people with autism with cannabis for 10 years. So we’re very behind in a lot of ways, but the information is very hard to get. And the other really great thing about Hope Grows for Autism is our support networks.

We have different chapters for different states because it’s so complicated. And because each state is very different. So parents or individuals with autism can join, we have a lot of Facebook groups. They can join our Facebook groups. And what’s good about that is parents want to ask me questions.

So I get messages all the time, but I don’t know everything. And when they post something or share something in the support group or in the network, you might have 10 parents chiming in with really good information and really good answers. So really it’s the support network and the education that’s the backbone of what we do.

Dr Bill Ferro: How do you feel about this explosion of CBD, right? It’s really devoid of the active ingredients that produce these medical effects. Please speak to that a little bit.

Erica Daniels: I have learned personally and there are some research out there and I have also learned from our community and the empirical information we do surveys and things like that most people with autism needs some THC or even in a lot of cases, more THC, which is what scares people. The CBD boom. I can’t tell you. I don’t know. There must’ve been something around New Year’s, how many calls and messages I’ve gotten from people I went to high school with asking me random CBD questions and I was very much like, I talk about cannabis, not CBD. But we’re at a point where people can’t access THC based medicines everywhere. Right? So there are some cannabinoids that are hemp-based that can help, but you really have to be careful. You really have to know where you’re buying it from. We have a list of reputable companies on the Hope Grows for Autism, website companies that we know of, that we trust that sell CBD products.

But, but really for me, I prefer cannabis because it has more of a medicinal quality and. I feel like CBD is more of a general wellness kind of product. And there are so many CBDs out there right now. It will be a really good tool in your toolbox, but you have to know what you’re using and why and use the right thing.

Erin O’Hearn: And the other thing is, Erica and I’m forgetting the terminology, but when you think about, cannabis is natural, right? It’s a plant and we all have a cannabinoid system.

Erica Daniels: Right. We have an endocannabinoid.

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah. Sorry, endocannabinoid system. And the synergistic qualities of the plant, but when you start removing things and extracting certain parts, sometimes they’re meant to work together and you can’t just say, Oh, I’m going to solve everything by taking the psychoactive quality out of it.

It’s just not how it works. I just think that people have to be careful because you can’t do one thing and make it okay. You have to educate yourself and understand what works, what doesn’t, what’s safe, what isn’t, don’t get hung up on the THC part of it.

That’s what everyone wants to scare you into. You don’t want to get your kid to get high, but that’s not it. So really I, and I know you will, just encourage everybody to educate and look for help and seek help through Erica’s organization because she has built a community and you can’t do this flying blind. Don’t reinvent the wheel. You guys have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s what you’re here for.

Erica Daniels: And we have chapters all over the world. We have chapter in Australia. So it’s really been quite amazing.

Dr Bill Ferro: And Erica, last week we had a biochemist on all about organic skincare. And we asked them a little bit about CBD. And just as we’ve just talked to empirically, he said it’s the whole plant. It’s the whole everything in life that makes it work together, right? It was this intelligent design that put all those things together to work in a certain way and be able to survive in this world, by calling out points may not have the same effect. The same goes for what we talked about earlier. You asked about how your son now can sometimes tolerate gluten. I’m not really sure that there are these inherent allergies. I believe it’s the environment that creates that low-level inflammation.

That those things will cause that reaction. And so with the THC in my mind, it’s like, all right, well, you have this mind that has also this physiological anti-inflammatory going, and we know the brain gut connection is a hundred percent real. I mean, they took mice that have anxiety, depression.They cut the Vegas Nerve and the anxiety, depression behavior goes away. We know this brain gut connection. So with some of the autism, they got the two things going on, inflammatory processes in the brain as well in the digestive system. And when that boils over you have to do something initially to get it to calm down. And it sounds like that is the one part. And with your son his eating. I always tell people with whether it’s autism, ADHD, just in general, your inflammatory process in your body will make it hard to concentrate.

We’re just seeing it at the exponential level. A lot of us are going through that. So many of our friends anxious, depressed, can’t sleep, weight piles on them no matter what, and it’s this connection totally. So I think it’s amazing and beautiful what you’ve done.

I love that we have place for people to go to get this information because this information for you is carefully picked over because it was a mom being like, should I do this? Should I not do this? We know how it is. And super excited and very impressed. And thank you that you came on today.

Erica Daniels: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. The more we talk about it, the less the stigma stays.

Erin O’Hearn: And let’s hope the laws change soon, too.

Dr Bill Ferro: I’d like to put some of your recipes onto my plan and put it in the Leo section so that people get some exposure to what was happening here.

Erica Daniels: Yeah. I love it.

Dr Bill Ferro: Erin, any final last words?

Erin O’Hearn: No, it was funny because Erica is also part of a cafe. And it employees people with special needs. It’s called the Get Cafe, and I was visiting one day and Leo put together like a 3000 piece puzzle in like 20 minutes, like amazing.

This is just a personal story. But then I got my daughter, she loves Friends. I got her a thousand piece friends puzzle for Christmas and we laid it out and we were trying to do it and I got like four pieces together and like fucking where’s Leo?

Erica Daniels: He’s a mad man.

He’s amazing. He’s amazing.

So he got a bunch of puzzles for the holidays and for Christmas and stuff. Yeah. he stayed up until like one o’clock in the morning, he just had to finish this puzzle at the other night. I don’t even know how he did it, all the piece colors look the same. He’s asking mommy help me.

And I’m thinking I can’t do this Leo. You’re the only one that can do this.

Dr Bill Ferro: That’s really important because it’s just the human expression. And our humans express themselves in so many different ways. And so maybe like my friend, Jimmy who’s son is non-verbal he can express.

If we found the way to connect with him, he would express it in such brilliant, brilliant ways. It’s about communication pathways. And it’s like walking into a country and saying, man, these people think I’m stupid cause we can’t talk. You just don’t speak the same language, right?

The language that they have and the super over intelligence and what their brain is thinking out versus our normal brains. Like I wonder what I’m having for lunch. And then they’re like, I wonder why the body even needs lunch. It’s a completely different way to look at things. It’s really impressive.

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah. And just thank you for everything you’ve done, because I just think you’ve opened up so many people’s eyes as to what you can do when you’re determined enough to help your child or help yourself. And I know that you’ve instilled that bravery in a lot of people who you know, are really are desperate and they just want to help their child.

So I say, I say, thank you all the time.

Erica Daniels: Yeah. We have resources for you. There’s information. There’s a community. So anyone who’s curious and it’s look, we’re not just talking about medical cannabis. We’re here to support one another as autism parents. I mean, you said how stressful it is for the parents.

I just wanted to add this. I mean, full on PTSD, many of these parents have. And a lot of them are learning about different ways to treat that. And sometimes it’s medical cannabis also. So it’s a lot. Yeah.

Erin O’Hearn: Yeah. And right now we need each other more than ever because it’s not a great time.

Yeah. Thank you, Erica.

Erica Daniels: Thank you for having me.

Dr Bill Ferro: Yeah. Well, thank you, Erica. So you can learn more about our organization@hubgrowsforautism.org. Erin, what did we learn today?

Erin O’Hearn: Why do I always feel like I have a pop quiz at the end? So we learned today that you have to compartmentalize things that are going on.

So treat the parts and the whole will get better that there is definitely a relation between your gut health and and what you’re absorbing and how you feel. And band-aids don’t do the trick. You have to find a source of the problem, and don’t be afraid to take a new path. I mean what’s out there already, if you keep running into a dead end, obviously isn’t it isn’t working. So stop taking that path, be open to new ideas and realize that we’re constantly evolving in the medical community and the health community and the wellness community and lean on each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Dr Bill Ferro: Yeah. I would say that I’ve been toying with this a lot and I’m just like, What is the essence of all of this, whether you’re discussing, you know cannaboid for your medical use, or you’re talking about helping digestive health or meditation, yoga, whatever it is, just go with your gut. Right?

You can just know that, Hey, you know what? This is working for me. And this feels good. Does it need to always be proven out by 1500 scientists in a room? No. Because, Hey, if there’s no financial reward for them to get that proof, right. We don’t study it right. We’re only studying what we can sell like crazy. So just go with your gut on this.

So I want to thanks everyone for listening to the Quacks and Hypochondriacs Podcast. If you like the show, be sure to rate, review, subscribe, do all the things that help us and help you find the show when the next episode comes out and don’t forget to visit our sponsor. What’s the sponsor. Again? B-E-T-R Health?

Erica Daniels: That’s a hard one.

Dr Bill Ferro: It’s so hard to remember. The episode is edited and produced by Earfluence with Erin O’Hearn. I’m Dr. Bill Ferro. We’ll see you next time on the Quacks in Hypochondriacs Podcast.

Full Episode Transcript

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Quacks and Hypochondriacs is hosted by Dr Bill Ferro and Erin O’Hearn, and is produced by Earfluence.

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