Study: Medical Marijuana Can Help With Behavioral Issues in Autistic Children

Ahora también en Español: Estudio Israelí Apoya al Cannabis como Tratamiento para Síntomas Asociados con el Autismo

Israeli researchers have discovered medical cannabis is helpful in alleviating behavioral problems in children with autism.

The study conducted by Dr. Adi Aran, director of the pediatric neurology unit at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, showed that 80 percent of the participants registered a decrease in problematic behavior and half presented improved communication capabilities. The results were first published back in April.

How The Study Was Conducted

Aran's study shows that cannabidiol, or CBD, therapy can improve the lives of children who are on the autism spectrum.

The Israeli study reported that CBD can improve brain signaling and therefore be used as a potential autism treatment.

Sixty children were enrolled in the study with an average age of 12, according to the Neurology Medical Journal. The study only focused on children on whom regular drug therapy had no effect.

The children were treated with cannabis oil with 20-percent CBD and 1-percent THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The treatment lasted for at least seven months and parents filled out questionnaires that assessed the condition of their children at the end of the trial period.

Positive Results

The results of the questionnaires show that 80 percent of the parents reported a decrease in problematic behavior.

At the same time, 62 percent said the behavior of their children saw significant improvement.

Half of the children registered an improvement in the level of communication and 40 percent charted an improvement in their anxiety system, although 33 percent of the children had no symptoms of anxiety before the study began.

“The results are encouraging, but we need to continue to investigate the effects of cannabis on autism in clinical trials,” Aran said.

All of the children's parents with the exception of one wanted to continue with cannabis therapy once the study concluded, the researcher said.

"The most challenging part of the study so far was to refuse phone calls from parents who wanted to violate the rules and continue to give their children the cannabis oil treatment even after the end of the period."

Other Research Supports Israeli Results

Multiple studies have found medical benefit in CBD.

A 2010 story in O'Shaughnesy's, a clinical cannabis journal, presented the case of a mother who gave her autistic son Abbvie, Inc. ABBV’s Marinol, which contains a synthetic cannabinoid.

Marinol had a positive effect on the son's behavior, and the woman later switched her son to natural medical marijuana and noticed a substantial change in the way he acted and a reduction in his aggression, according to the article by Lester Grinspoon, M.D.

A study authored by Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Antonio Persico, Natalia Battista and Mauro Maccarrone concluded the endocannabinoid system is connected to social reward responsivity, neural development, circadian rhythm and anxiety-related symptoms, making it applicable in autism therapy. CBD is known to stimulate the activity in CB1 and CB2 receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system.

Other Studies Could Speed Development of CBD-Based Therapies

The effects of CBD on autism are being explored in other studies.

In April, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine launched a clinical trial to investigate the effects of CBD on autism. The study involves 30 children ages 8-12. The objectives are to determine whether CBD is safe and tolerable and whether it helps with autism's adverse symptoms.

The study will also investigate how CBD changes brain wave activity, neurotransmitters and brain connectivity, and investigate whether biomarkers of neuro-inflammation are affected by CBD.

The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the UC San Diego School of Medicine received $4.7 million from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation for the study. This represents the largest private donation that has been made for medical marijuana research.

Montefiore Medical Center and NYU Langone started a clinical trial earlier this year involving children 5-18. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study will analyze the effect of non-psychoactive compounds from cannabis on autism.

The study is led by Dr. Eric Hollander, clinical psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center and Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. Hollander and Devinsky will first study the effects of cannabidivarin on 100 children and then will move on to another trial at NYU that will study the effect of CBD.

En el Día Mundial de Concienciación sobre el Autismo, lee:

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