I’m autistic, weed helps me thrive in the neurotypical world

cannabis and autism: Abstract background made of multicolored circles and cannabis leaves. Top view

Awareness of autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and neurodivergence has grown rapidly since the 1990s. Many Millennials, specifically women, are realizing that after a lifetime of being told they’re “dramatic,” “too sensitive,” or “always overreacting,” they are actually just neurodivergent.

Hi, I’m Cara, and I’m one of those women. And truthfully, I don’t know if I’d have made it to where I am without the help of cannabis. The plant has made living feel softer, taking the edge off of the neurotypical world.

RELATED: Cannabis oil may improve the lives of people with autism, according to new study

Autism in my 30’s

Self-diagnosis isn’t always the best method for medical care, but it has proven a valuable tool in helping many undiagnosed adults find answers. My journey started like many others. After years of feeling different and performing poorly in social situations, the autistics of social media found their way into my algorithm.

Each personal testimony of masking or autism symptoms reminded me of pieces I’d hidden until I was all mask. It felt like walking home. Soon into this journey, I thirsted for answers and turned to the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R). The self-report survey helps identify autistic adults who may not have been previously diagnosed, and I score in the “Very strong evidence for autism” column every time I take it.

As I’ve connected to my true reality, I’ve felt like I am slowly wriggling out of a thick latex suit. I have realized through the process that lots of the things I’ve built around myself were tools to cope with being autistic in a society built for neurotypicals–weed included.

One is the art of wake and bake, which helps me hit neutral and sets the tone for a joyful and productive day. I’ve heard this echoed by fellow neurodivergent stoners, but the concept is met with trepidation by many neurotypicals. In the last year or so, since suspecting I might have a spicy brain, I’ve tracked many of my consumption habits back to autism.

Until recently, there was little scientific data on shared cannabis consumption habits among neurodivergent people, though Dr. Miyabe Shields and their cohorts are slowly changing that. They even talk about wake and baking for neurodivergent people!


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Solid data from people like Dr. Shields is on the way as researchers circle the connection between the endocannabinoid system and spicy brains. While I wait, I’m using self-observation to understand how my longtime relationship with cannabis might relate to being autistic. What I’ve realized is that cannabis solves the problem on two ends.

Cannabis and autism

Autistic people can be hypersensitive to the world around them. It both gives us a dynamic view of the world and makes our surroundings feel overwhelming. Tools like headphones, sunglasses, and hoods can help overstimulated people, and I’ve found that, for me, cannabis does too.

Before taking the RAADS-R, I would often get overwhelmed and feel like my physical body was too large to exist in the world. It was Alice in Wonderland, when the main character grows too big for the room. My clothes would become uncomfortable at every seam, the car felt as if it was built for ants, and I couldn’t stop running into door jams and corners.

In these times, a quick toke would bring me back into my body and help me reintegrate into the physical world. Now, I understand that as being overstimulated, but before, I had no idea what was happening to me. In time, I’ve been able to understand triggers and remove myself or alter situations to avoid overstimulation, but when I can’t, I still turn to weed.

Social situations are also complicated, and knowing the “right” topics to cover or how to properly follow a conversational thread often escapes me. Beyond this, I’m trying to unmask (ie be myself even if its perceived as weird or odd) for the first time at 36, which is counterintuitive in settings with lots of people. Not to mention how it flares up my rejection dysphoria.

RELATED: Neurodivergent cannabis studies are on the rise with these exciting results

Taking a 1:1 CBD to THC edible, bonus points for CBG, about 30 minutes before arrival has been critical in bringing ease into meeting lots of new people or socializing in big groups like at weddings. It also helps take the edge off of the anxiety felt after all the chit-chat is over, and the dysphoria makes me constantly relive everything that I said, hunting for something to obsess over. Weed helps me feel at ease when the world feels impossible to exist in, but it’s important to consume mindfully, even if it’s medical.

The good and bad of cannabis and autism

I’ve clocked a possible issue with my autism-related consumption as well. People with autism and Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder (ADHD) may have symptom overlap. For me, one of those overlapping symptoms is dopamine seeking. Unfortunately for my flower stash, the ritual of packing and hitting my bong gives me a delightful dopamine rush. I’m not addicted to this, but I’ve identified the habitual nature of it as a consumption red flag to watch.

Being autistic isn’t a flex or something that I take lightly. For years, I thought something was deeply wrong with how I thought, spoke, and existed. Finding out I might just have autism was like taking a full breath for the first time. And now, as I retrace my steps and figure out how I got here I’m realizing that I couldn’t have done it without the plant.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.