Positive Results From Medical Cannabis Trial With Autism Patients

Autism and cannabis
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The results of a two-year study have indicated children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) could benefit from cannabis medicines, particularly those high in CBD and low in THC.

The treatment used for the majority of the patients participating in the study was based on cannabis oil containing 30% cannabidiol (CBD) and 1.5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s the latter compound better known for its psychoactive properties – CBD does not have an intoxicating effect.  In patients who reported a high degree of sensitivity to medications used previously, the treatment was commenced with oil containing 15% CBD and 0.75% THC. 

After an initial treatment phase, patients with continuing severe sleep disturbances had 3% THC oil  added to the evening dose, while in cases of significant aggressive or violent behaviour, 3% THC oil was added. The most common issues facing those selected to participate in the study was restlessness (90.4%), rage attacks (79.8%), and agitation (78.7%)

The medication was administered at Tikun Olam’s clinics in Israel. The company is Israel’s largest national provider of medical cannabis.

After one month, 8 of the 188 patients had stopped treatment and one switched to a different cannabis supplier. Of the 179 patients remaining who continued treatment, two-thirds responded to a questionnaire. Of those, 48.7% reported significant improvement and 31.1% noted moderate improvement. 5.9% had side effects and 14.3% reported the cannabis treatment did not help them.

After six months of treatment 155 were still in active treatment, with 93 assessed. Of those, 28 patients (30.1%) reported a significant improvement, 50 (53.7%) moderate, 6 (6.4%) slight and 8 (8.6%) experienced no change in their condition. More were reporting at least one side effect (23 – 25.2%); the most common being restlessness (6.6%).

Other results of significance according to Tikun Olam included 24 of 27 patients with epilepsy reported improved or disappearance of symptoms. 34% of patients were able to decrease medications and 20% stopped using antipsychotic medication.

“The data shows that autism patients can improve their overall quality of life utilizing a high CBD strain, and most importantly, that young users can safely and effectively benefit from medical cannabis,” said Dr. Annabelle Manalo, PhD, Tikun Olam’s Science Director.

It’s a small study, but adds to the evidence that cannabis could be useful in the in the treatment of autism and will provide hope to many families – but it’s really important to note it probably won’t help everyone.

The full study report has been published in Scientific Reports and can be viewed here. Other items we’ve published in relation to medicinal cannabis and autism can be found here.