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Autistic Oregon Boy Treated With Marijuana

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How far would you go to ensure your child's peace of mind? 

One Oregon couple whose 11-year-old son suffers from Tuberous Sclerosis endure the daily agony of watching their little boy beat himself violently about the head. The only relief they have found so far: providing their child with medical marijuana. 

Alex Echols' rare genetic disorder causes unregulated growth of tissue in his brain. At just 2 months he started having seizures. Later he was diagnosed with autism.

"Alex cannot communicate using words and that leads to behavior that is very frustrating for him and for those caring for him," Dr. Colin Roberts, a pediatric neurologist at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, told Oregon's KPTV.

By the age of 3 he began experiencing episodes of severe rage that caused him to hurt himself. At 5, his violent behavior included head-butting, hitting and scratching himself to the point of bruising and bleeding. When Alex was 8 he was such a danger to himself that his parents felt compelled to place him in a group home. 

No medication seemed to help.

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But then the Echols saw a news story about an autistic boy in California who had benefitted from medical marijuana. Desperate, the couple applied Alex to Oregon's medical marijuana program. He was approved in 2010. So now, about three times a week, his parents travel to Alex's group home to give him a liquid form of the drug, since the staff will not administer it. After only a few months, there was a marked improvement in Alex's self-injurious behavior. 

"[Alex] 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 that time was almost unheard of," his father Jeremy said. 

Watch a clip of Alex, who is one of only 58 minors in the state to be prescribed medical marijuana, below, but take note that some of the images of his self-directed rage can be disturbing. 

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