Cannabis and autism: medical cannabis relieves symptoms in children

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In a study of patients with autism researchers have shown that cannabis as a treatment for autism spectrum disorders appears to be beneficial.

The study looked at the link between the use of medical cannabis and autism behavioural improvements in children with autism, who are 18 years old and under, and found cannabis to be a well-tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage attacks.

The researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center reported that after six months of treatment that 80% of participants reported some level of improvement.

Cannabis and autism behavioural improvement

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an extensive developmental disorder that is expressed in almost all dimensions of the child’s development. It is now common to refer to this disorder as a wide range of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in which there are various manifestations and symptoms.

BGU’s Dr Gal Meiri of the Negev Autism Center, said: “We analysed the data prospectively collected as part of the treatment program of 188 ASD patients treated with medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017. The treatment in majority of the patients was based on cannabis oil containing 30% cannabidiol oil (CBD) and 1.5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Symptoms, patient global assessment and side effects at six months were primary outcomes of interest and were assessed by structured questionnaires.”

The study was published in Scientific Reports and showed that after six months of treatment, 30% of patients reported a significant improvement, 53.7% reported moderate improvement, and only 15% had slight or no change.

Improvements in quality of life

The study also looked at the benefits of the use of cannabis and autism quality of life improvements. Quality of life, mood and ability to perform activities of daily living were assessed prior to treatment and at six months. Good quality of life was reported by 31.3% of patients prior to treatment initiation. At six months, good quality of life more than doubled to 66.8%. Positive mood was reported as 42% before treatment and 63.5% after six months.

Other aspects of independence and quality of life were assessed such as the ability to dress and shower independently. This improved significantly from cannabis treatment. Only a quarter (26.4%) reported no difficulty prior to the treatment while 42.9% improved their ability to dress and shower independently at six months.

The study also showed that cannabis oil medication was able to significantly improve sleep and concentration. Good sleep and concentration were reported by 3.3% and 0% respectively at the outset, compared to 24.7% and 14% during an active treatment.

Dr Victor Novack, of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute, said: “While this study suggest that cannabis treatment is safe and can improve ASD symptoms and improve ASD patients’ quality of life, we believe that double blind placebo-controlled trials are crucial for a better understanding of the cannabis effect on ASD patients.”

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12 COMMENTS

  1. If all this evidence has been collected why has the U.K. NICE come up with their “well researched” guide lines been so negative? Can they not read as most of the team do not have knowledge of the Endocannabinoid System?

  2. Please I am a single mother of an autistic child. I am a graduate but I am finding it difficult to take care of him. He is showing signs of Healing. Please can someone send me the cannabis treatment. Please I want to see my son perfectly healed. Thank you

    • Hi Helen,

      I have a 7 year old son who is autistic and ……. everything that can drive a mom crazy. I’m exhusted and need immediate relief. Have you already tried him with cannabis? I want to try it on my son but doubtful.

    • Dossy, you can’t “heal” autism. It’s a trait, not a broken limb. Some treatments and medications can help with some of the most adverse symptoms, and may help quality of life, but you can’t heal this. It’s something that is life long and managed.

      You need to adjust your expectations on that front right away, for your sake and your child’s.

    • Hi, my son 22 and is currently using cannabis for anger issues. Personally I see no difference in his quality of life and I believe that it has become an addiction. His father and myself disagree on this method of treatment. My son still is not able to work, go to school, has no friends and seems more angry and depressed. Cannabis will not HEAL your child and I am surprised that you would want to put you 7yrs old son on this addictive drug. You can not heal autism! You just have to take it one day at a time. Note: I stayed home with my child for 13yrs while my parent supported us. My son had all the best therapy, private schools, saw the best doctors and is LOVED.In the end it was not enough. Out of the blue one day I received a call from my son therapist to say that he would never go to college, hold down a job and that I should prepare myself to the worst. There is not a day that goes by that I break down crying at the so called life he lives. I am deeply concerned by the change in him and Cannabis is now adding to that concern. I am worried where this is going to lead.

    • Dear Henry,

      Thank you for your interest in this article. Unfortunately, we only report on the news. We recommend you speak to a medical professional about this.

      Kind regards
      MCN Team

    • In my opinion, melatonin has been good so far. Cannabis oil is absolutely not the right choice. Try it and see. It doesn’t hurt to try. Unless you don’t want a day full of hell.

      • There are some really bad cases of melatonin leading to increased violence. Be careful advising that.

        Melatonin is a good sleep aid for some, it is NOT a mood stabilizer, or in any way a good treatment for behavioral disorders.

  3. This has absolutely made my son’s autism/adha so much worse. He is going through crazy hell right now. Call me 972-626-4242.

    • What age/weight? How severe are the symptoms and presentation in the first place? What kind of cannabis are you using? CBD? THC? What dosage? What other variables? Is there other medications? Are you continuing with melatonin as well? There are a lot of factors to take into account there. Also, the ASD/ADHD combo is a nightmare in and of itself, not an easy thing to deal with in any setting.

      I feel for you, and for you this may not be a good treatment option, but also there’s a lot of variable to consider on this and perhaps a different formulation.

  4. I have been giving my three year old son who has autism cbd oil for the past 6 days and have seen a significant difference. I would highly recommend this even though my son’s paediatrician is against it. I would say to any parent to make your own judgement call as no doctor or professional knows the child better than the childs’ parent itself.
    Email me if you would like more info at N_kausar@hotmail.co.uk

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