BEER-SHEVA, Israel — Medical cannabis is an effective, well-tolerated, and most importantly, a safe treatment for autism in children, helping to reduce a range of symptoms in those with the condition, a new study finds.
Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the Soroka University Medical Center say cannabis oil helped to improve seizures, tics, depression, rage attacks, and restlessness in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
According to lead researcher Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute, more than 80% of the parents involved in the study reported “significant or moderate improvement” in their child.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that can impact almost all areas of child development, particularly concentration and social behavior. There are many manifestations, depending on where the child falls on the spectrum, leading to different symptoms.
The researchers analyzed data collected as a part of the treatment plan for 188 ASD patients treated with medical cannabis from 2015 to 2017. About 38% of the children in the study were between ages 11 and 18, 37% between ages 6 and 10, and about 7% were 5 years old or younger. The treatment for the majority of those patients was based on cannabis oil containing 30% cannabidiol oil (CBD) and 1.5% THC. Most children in the study were given the oil three times a day over the six-month study period.
After the cannabis oil treatment, 53.7% of patients reported moderate improvement of ASD symptoms, and 30% reported significant improvement. While just 31.3% of patients reported a “good quality of life” before treatment started, after six months that number more than doubled to 66.8%.
“While this study suggest that cannabis treatment is safe and can improve ASD symptoms and improve ASD patients’ quality of life, we believe that double blind placebo-controlled trials are crucial for a better understanding of the cannabis effect on ASD patients,” says co-author Dr. Victor Novack, of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute, in a university release.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.