Recent studies by Israeli researchers reveal that CBD is an effective remedy for children on the autism spectrum. CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant helped to improve the conditions in 80% of autistic children. In the past, conventional drug therapies had shown no improvement at all.
The Study Up-Close
The study was headed by the director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, Dr. Adi Aran, who administered 60 children with high-CBD cannabis oil (20% CBD and 1% THC). The children were given CBD for at least seven months.
After the treatment period, parents filled assessment questionnaires to describe their child’s condition. Questions were around behavioral changes, anxiety levels, and the ability to communicate.
Here’s what they reported:
- 80% of parents recorded a decrease in questionable behaviors, with 62% stating significant improvements.
- Half of the children had enhanced communication.
- 40% stated significant reductions in anxiety.
This was the first research of such kind worldwide and was made feasible by the Israeli government’s funding and systematic approach to cannabis research.
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental, usually showing symptoms in babyhood or early childhood and continuing a lifetime. More critical cases have debilitating symptoms, including repetitive, compulsive behaviors and impaired communication and social skills. Some children cannot converse at all. Autism impacts around 1% of people worldwide.
The roots of autism are not known, and there is no cure. In April 2018, the CDC changed its autism prevalence estimates to 1 in 59 children, up from 1 in 166 children in 2004. Ideally, doctors treat symptoms with antipsychotic medications, which have adverse side effects. Many children do not respond to such drugs.
Autism & Epilepsy
Aran started small autism research studies after similar cannabis studies on epilepsy, a disease that concerns about 20% of autistic children. While studying epilepsy, researchers noticed that certain cannabis compounds would likely also help with some autism symptoms. Less than 2% of the global population has epilepsy, but up to 33% of people with autism also endure epilepsy.
While scientists do not grasp the reasons behind the relationship, they speculate that the different brain development that happens in autistic children is more likely to form circuits that cause epileptic seizures. This link has prompted many parents to try out cannabis treatments for their autistic children. Parents surely have anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of CBD oils on their autistic children, but mainstream doctors have remained skeptical due to the lack of data.
About CBD Research
In 2015, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital issued a baseline study of cannabis and autism studies to date, pointing that the research did show commitment, but nothing definitive could be said about cannabis’ capacity to assist pediatric patients. The Harvard review asserted that most research was animal-based and did not yet show translational impacts on human subjects. The study suggested that cannabis treatments should be used as a last resort after all traditional therapies have failed. Indeed, a widespread hesitation exists within the pediatric community to investigate the effects of cannabis in children, due to the fear of harmful side effects.
Since 2015, only a handful of studies have been administered, with positive results. The most significant outcome of the research has been the U.S. Food and Administration (FDA) approval of Epidiolex, a CBD oil-based elixir produced by British drug developer GW Pharmaceuticals as a treatment for two rare types of childhood epilepsy.
Since autism and epilepsy go hand in hand, CBD is displaying promise for treating both conditions.
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