CBD Oil for Autism

Israeli researchers have found more compelling evidence that medical cannabis is an effective therapy for children on the autism spectrum in this soon­ to ­be ­published study in the journal for autistic children with high concentrations of CBD, a non­intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Conditions in 80 percent of the children improved. Alternatively, the children had not shown improvement with conventional drug therapies.

The Study Up-Close

The study was led by the director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, Dr. Adi Aran, who treated the 60 children with a high ­CBD cannabis oil (20 percent CBD and 1 percent THC at least seven months with the oil.)

After the treatment period, parents answered assessment questionnaires to characterize their child’s condition. Questions were asked about behavioral changes, anxiety levels and ability to cope.

Here’s what they reported:

  • 80 percent of parents noted a decrease in problematic behaviors, with 62 percent reporting significant improvements.
  • Half of the children had improved communication.
  • 40 percent reported significant decreases in anxiety. (Note: One­ third of the study participants began the study with no anxiety.)

The Pioneer

Just as Israel is a pioneer in medical cannabis research, Aran is a pioneer in cannabinoid therapy for autism. Aran originally began a 2017 project to test 120 autistic children. It was the first that was made possible by the Israeli government’s funding and progressive approach to cannabis research.

Aran said that when word of the study got out, his waiting lists were soon full of many families from all over Israel who wanted to participate.

Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental in nature, usually appearing in infancy or early childhood and lasting a lifetime. More severe cases have debilitating symptoms including impaired social skills and communication. Some children cannot speak at all. Autism affects around 1 percent of people worldwide.

The causes of autism are not understood and there is no cure. In April 2018, the CDC updated its autism prevalence as climbing. The CDC increased estimates to 1 in 59 children, up from 1 in 68. Doctors traditionally treat symptoms with antipsychotic medications, which have harmful side effects. Some children do not respond to these medications.

Aran began small autism research studies after similar cannabis studies on epilepsy, a disease that affects about 20 percent of autistic children. While studying epilepsy, researchers discovered that it would likely also help some autism symptoms. Less than 2 percent of the general population has epilepsy, but up to 33 percent of people with autism also suffer from epilepsy.

Neuroscientist Dr. Thomas Deuel of the Swedish Hospital in Seattle says there is definitely a connection. While scientists do not clearly understand the reasons behind the relationship, they saw a development that occurs in autistic children as more likely to create circuits that cause epileptic seizures.

That link has caused many parents to seek out cannabis treatments for their autistic children. Parents certainly have anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of CBD oils on their autistic children but have remained skeptical due to the lack of data. With most conditions treated with cannabis, anecdotal evidence and personal experience far outweigh actual peer ­reviewed scientific research.

What’s Next for CBD Research?

In 2015, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital published a baseline review of cannabis and autism studies to date, showing that the research did show promise, but nothing defines cannabis’ ability to improve pediatric patients.

Since 2015, only a few small studies have been conducted, with promising results. One of the biggest impacts to spur on future research has been the U.S. Food and Administration (FDA) based elixir manufactured by British drug developer GW Pharmaceuticals as a treatment for two rare types of childhood epilepsy. Scientists took notice at the amazing body of evidence that GW presented regarding the effects of the drug.

Now, New York University (NYU) neurologist Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the same scientist who did research on Epidiolex, is now conducting two studies on CBD’s effects on children aged 5 to 18. The only other doctor who is currently doing studies like this is Aran.

Since autism and epilepsy go hand in hand, CBD is showing promise for treating both conditions.

Perhaps as doctors begin to see the effects of Epidiolex, and review research like that of Aran’s and Devinsky’s autism studies, many more will begin to delve further into the use of medical cannabis and hemp.

Contact CBDaily for more information regarding CBD oil for autism.