Researchers in Israel have recently discovered strong evidence that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for children who are on the autism spectrum. The medical journal Neurology will soon publish the study which highlights a clinical trial in which autistic children were treated with highly concentrated CBD (cannabidiol), a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis.
The study revealed that astoundingly, approximately 80 % of the children experienced an improvement in symptoms related to autism. Interestingly, the children had shown little or no improvement with conventional drug therapies.
Dr. Adi Aran, director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, led the study. He treated the 60 children with a high-CBD cannabis oil (20% CBD and 1% THC) for at least seven months.
At the end of the treatment period, parents answered assessment questionnaires to summarize their child’s condition. The questionnaires were designed to provide information regarding behavioral changes, anxiety levels and the ability to communicate.
These are some of the notable results of the study:
• 80% of parents noted a decrease in problematic behaviors, 62% reported marked improvements.
• Half of the children showed improvements in the ability to communicate.
• 40% reported significant decreases in anxiety. (One-third of the subjects began the study without anxiety.)
Aran, a pioneer in cannabinoid therapy for autism, had originally began a 2017 project to test 120 autistic children. It was the first study of its kind worldwide, and was made possible by the Israeli government’s funding and willingness to embrace cannabis-related research.
Aran stated that when people began to hear about the study, his waiting lists became full with numerous families from all parts of Israel who wanted to participate.
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental and normally appear during infancy or early childhood, typically lasting a lifetime. The most severe cases have debilitating symptoms which include compulsive, repetitive behaviors, impaired social skills, and difficulty communicating. Some children are unable to even speak. It is estimated that autism affects 1% of the population worldwide.
It is not fully understood what causes autism and there is no cure. The prevalence appears to be escalating. In April 2018, the CDC amended its estimate for autism from 1 in 166 children in 2004, to currently 1 in 59 children. Traditionally, doctors have attempted to treat symptoms with antipsychotic medications, which can and do have harmful side effects. Additionally, these medications are not effective for some children.
Aran had previously done a similar study on the effect of cannabis on epilepsy, a condition which affects 20% of autistic children. The researchers reasoned, while studying epilepsy, that certain cannabis compounds would likely help relieve some autism symptoms. While less than 2% of the general population has epilepsy, up to 33% of people affected by autism also have epilepsy.
Dr.Thomas Deuel, a neuroscientist at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, feels that there is definitely a connection between the two. Although scientists don't fully know what causes the relationship between autism and epilepsy, they believe that the early brain development that occurs in autistic children could likely be the culprit which creates the circuits that cause epileptic seizures.
It is this link that has caused many parents to opt to find cannabis treatments for their autistic children. There are numerous testimonials of parents who can attest to the effectiveness of CBD oils in making a difference and bringing relief to their autistic children. Unfortunately, the traditional medical system has remained skeptical while claiming that there is not enough data. There are countless stories of people with a variety of conditions who have found relief with the use of cannabis, but these are far greater in number than any scientific studies which might back them up.