Can Medical Marijuana Help Kids With Autism?
Monday, May 13, 2019
Posted by: Lexi Dills
FRIDAY, May 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Medical marijuana extracts appear to help children with autism, reducing their disruptive behavior while improving their social responsiveness, a new Israeli clinical trial reports.
Kids treated with either a whole-plant cannabis extract or a pure combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and THC experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms, compared with a control group given a placebo, researchers said.
But parents of kids with autism should still wait for more data before trying to treat them with medical marijuana, warned lead researcher Dr. Adi Aran, director of the pediatric neurology unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
"Thousands of parents already are treating their kids with cannabis based on rumors of this study," Aran said. "I don't want it to be even more."
For the study, 150 children with autism were put in one of three groups. One group received a placebo, another was treated with a whole-plant extract of marijuana, and the third received a pure blend of CBD and THC at a 20-to-1 ratio
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound that produces intoxication when one uses marijuana.
CBD is a compound in marijuana that does not produce intoxication, but does appear to interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. One CBD-based product, Epidiolex, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating epilepsy.
CBD has been shown to help anxiety in several studies, so researchers thought it might aid in treating behavioral problems in kids with autism, Aran said. These include acting out and violence towards others.
The THC was included in the pure blend because "we believe the THC might be important for improving the social deficits as well," Aran said. "THC is known to impact the social area."
The whole-plant extract included not only CBD and THC, but many other compounds also found in cannabis, Aran said.
The kids were treated for two four-week periods, with a four-week break in the middle.
Kids taking a cannabis extract improved 49% and 53% on two scales in which doctors and parents measure autism symptoms and disruptive behavior. That compared to 21% and 44% improvement, respectively, in kids on the placebo.
WEB MD, online, May 13th, 2019.