Fragile X syndrome is a rare genetic disorder. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests that it affects just 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 8000 females. Furthermore, the condition generally affects males far more seriously than females.
The disorder can range from mild to severe and causes a variety of symptoms from anxiety to developmental delays. Treatment options are also limited, leaving many patients disabled and unable to lead a fulfilling life.
However, one novel treatment which is showing great promise is CBD oil. Scientists are currently studying this cannabis-based medicine for fragile X syndrome, and anecdotal reports are positive.
In this article, we discuss what fragile X syndrome is, its symptoms, and how CBD could help.
What Is Fragile X Syndrome?
Fragile X syndrome is sometimes known as FRAXA syndrome or fra(X) syndrome, among other names. It is a rare genetic and developmental disorder that affects males more severely than females.
The disorder arises from a mutation in a gene known as FMR1. This gene regulates the production of a protein known as FMRP.
FMRP plays a crucial role in the development of synapses, the communication network between nerve cells. It also plays a part in producing other proteins that are essential to growth and health.
The mutation that causes fragile X occurs in the DNA of X chromosomes. As some may know, females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y. This fact explains why males experience fragile X more frequently and more severely than females. It also accounts for the name of the condition.
Fragile X occurs when a section of DNA in the X chromosome gets repeated too many times. The number of repetitions will determine how severely the patient is affected. Therefore, the symptoms of fragile X syndrome can vary significantly from person to person.
The symptoms of fragile X syndrome include:
Delayed speech and language development
Autistic spectrum disorders
Sensory processing disorders
Additionally, some people with fragile X develop distinctive physical features around puberty. These include a long, thin face with pronounced ears, forehead, and chin. Individuals with fragile X sometimes have flat feet and very flexible fingers. Males may also have enlarged testicles.
How Does CBD Oil Help Fragile X Syndrome?
There is currently no truly effective treatment for fragile X syndrome. However, medication can control specific symptoms, including:
Antidepressants for anxiety issues
Stimulant drugs for ADD or ADHD
The problem with all of these medications is that they may cause unpleasant side effects. These issues have led researchers to explore new ways of helping with fragile X syndrome symptoms, including CBD oil.
CBD has the potential to help many of the symptoms of fragile X syndrome, including anxiety, sleep issues, seizures, and cognitive difficulties. And while it cannot reverse the gene mutation that causes fragile X, it may mitigate many of the symptoms.
Animal studies have found a link between fragile X and problems in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is one of the major biological systems with which CBD interacts. It is a complex network of cell receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids.
These endocannabinoids have many vital roles in the body and brain. They include social interactions, memory, mood, and learning.
People with fragile X syndrome seem to have fewer endocannabinoids than usual. This deficiency leads to problems with the central nervous system and brain function. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that increasing the number of these chemicals would help.
This is where CBD comes in. CBD can interact with the ECS to slow down the rate at which endocannabinoids are broken down by the body. CBD increases the concentration of these helpful compounds, and this is how it exerts many of its benefits.
Also, CBD may have a positive effect on neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA. These chemicals play a vital role in helping with focus and relaxation and how brain cells communicate with one another.
Research on CBD Oil for Fragile X Syndrome
As of now, there are no published clinical trials on CBD for fragile X syndrome. However, two major studies are currently underway.
The two studies, known as ZYN2-CL-016 and ZYN2-CL-017, are being conducted by Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. These studies will test the effectiveness and safety of a pharmaceutically manufactured CBD gel for fragile X syndrome.
The gel is known as ZYN002, and users apply it to the skin. The results of the first phase are due to be published in late 2020, with the second phase to follow in 2022.
In the meantime, we must rely on anecdotal evidence to assess how CBD might help with fragile X syndrome. Fortunately, a case study series published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research had promising results.
The study included two adults and one child with fragile X syndrome who used CBD oil to manage their conditions. All of the patients saw improvements in symptoms, including anxiety, sleep disturbances, social avoidance, language, and motor skills.
Furthermore, when two of the patients stopped using CBD temporarily, their symptoms quickly returned. All three of the patients are now using CBD oil daily and continue to experience benefits.
However, more research is needed to confirm whether CBD helps fragile X syndrome and how. What is clear is that further studies are warranted.
Using CBD Oil for Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X patients and their loved ones may wonder how to use CBD oil for any potential benefits. However, there are several things to consider.
CBD and Drug Interactions
Firstly, although CBD is generally considered safe, it can cause numerous drug interactions. Therefore, if someone is taking medication, they need to talk to their doctor before using CBD. Not taking the appropriate precautions could increase the risk of side effects, which can be dangerous in itself.
The risks may be lower if patients use a topical CBD product as used in the studies listed above. However, they should still seek medical advice beforehand.
Choosing the Right CBD Oil for Fragile X Syndrome
Secondly, sufferers of this disorder and their caregivers must carefully consider the type of CBD oil that they buy, and from where. This is because CBD oil can be either full-spectrum or isolate.
Full-spectrum oils include a range of other cannabinoids alongside CBD. Many experts believe this is beneficial as these compounds all have desirable properties which contribute to the overall effect.
However, if giving CBD oil to a child, individuals should avoid products that contain high levels of THC. THC is the intoxicating component of cannabis and could be damaging to developing brains.
Most commercially produced CBD oils contain only trace amounts of THC and should, therefore, be safe. However, to be 100% sure, some may want to stick to a CBD isolate for treating children.
The Best CBD Oil for Fragile X Syndrome
Finally, anyone using CBD oil should ensure that what they buy comes from a reputable company. There are hundreds of CBD brands available, and not all are created equal.
One of the patients in the case study series mentioned above used CBD oil from a CBD company called Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s Web is a brand that is well known for its quality and manufactures its products using CBD-rich hemp.
However, there are many other great brands on the market too. Sufferers and their loved ones should carry out thorough research and read plenty of reviews before choosing a CBD oil that works.
CBD Oil for Fragile X Syndrome: Final Thoughts
CBD oil is not able to cure fragile X syndrome, but it does seem to offer relief.
Some common issues for which people use CBD include anxiety, sleep problems, and seizures. All of these symptoms may affect people who suffer from fragile X.
Furthermore, CBD could help to improve the function of the ECS. This biological system appears to play a significant role in the development of fragile X and many of its symptoms.
The precise benefits of CBD for fragile X syndrome are yet to be confirmed by clinical trials. However, case histories and pre-clinical studies suggest that it shows great promise.
Fragile X is a serious condition and only treated under the care and advice of a medical doctor. Patients should always consult their doctor before starting any new treatment for fragile X, including CBD.