Over the past decade, cannabidiol has been increasingly established as an effective treatment for children suffering from epilepsy. A new study being conducted in Israel is now testing whether CBD could also help children diagnosed with autism.
The study began this January at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and will continue though the end of next year. Researchers are testing 120 children and young adults diagnosed with mild to severe autism. The participants are given one of two different cannabis oil formulas or a placebo to test whether or not the CBD has positive effects.
“Many parents were asking for cannabis for their kids,” said Adi Aran, the pediatric neurologist leading the study. “First I said, 'No, there’s no data to support cannabis for autism, so we can’t give it to you.'” But after an observational study showed positive results for medical marijuana treatments of 70 autistic patients, Aran decided “we need to do a clinical trial so there will be data."
Aran said that it is too early to conclusively say whether or not cannabis is helping his autistic patients, but early reports are positive. Some children have become more communicative, some stopped hurting themselves or throwing tantrums, and some saw enough of a reduction in behavioral problems that they were able to return to classes.
There are currently 110 cannabis clinical trials being conducted in Israel, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1992. Unlike the in the United States where marijuana is still prohibited by the federal government, it is relatively easy to conduct cannabis research in Israel. Alan Shackelford, an American physician who has been trying for years to get approval from U.S. authorities to conduct medical marijuana research, has started an Israeli company to conduct the research he has been prevented from doing. “Israel leads the world in inquiries and studies on cannabis as a potential medical treatment,” he said.