Scientists at Leigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are keen to investigate the medicinal potential of cannabis as a treatment for autism. There is a glut of anecdotal evidence that suggests the plant could be beneficial and considering there is a lack of effective drugs available that don’t have side effects, cannabis holds plenty of appeal. It’s thought that the non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) could improve health and behavior in autistic children.
Could CBD really treat autism?
The reports of autistic children experiencing a reduction in symptoms thanks to cannabis oil treatment are coming thick and fast. It appears that CBD products can reduce hyperactivity and hypersensitivity and break down barriers to communication that many children with autism are held back by. Parents are also finding that CBD reduces the chance of their children self-harming.
Scientists are hoping to carry out more research on the endocannabinoid system which could prove helpful in developing a cannabis-based treatment for autism. These studies could, for example, show which cannabinoids are of most use and whether their effects are dose-dependent. National Institute of Health (NIH) data points toward the CB2 receptor as a possible target area for an autism medicine.
The researchers at Leigh University hope to collect some of the world’s first quantitative data looking at how autism could be treated with marijuana. Pennsylvania lists autism as qualifying condition for medical cannabis, one of just a few states to do so, hence why the Keystone State is now a hotbed for research into marijuana’s effect on the condition.
Leigh’s Dean of Education Gary Sasso wants research into cannabis and autism to proceed past the anecdotal stories and for the university to establish some cold, hard facts – on its effectiveness, safety and potential side effects.
Sasso is keen to know whether cannabis can treat some of the most common autism characteristics, such as communication issues and discomfort in social situations.
This Pennsylvania research follows hot on the heels of an Israeli study on how cannabinoids influenced autism in children, which started in January 2017. The study, which is set to complete at some point in 2018, is analyzing 120 children with mild to severe autism, treating them with doses of isolated CBD.
Scientific studies are key for legalization
All cannabis users should welcome the increased number of studies being done on the herb, as more good news about the plant’s therapeutic qualities will surely louden the calls for total legalization.
For BioGreen Pharms Medical Director Dr Sue Sisley, the Leigh University studies could, at some point down the line, be beneficial for families who have kids with autism and other conditions. Right now, parents are sometimes forced to make difficult decisions about whether to break laws to bring the necessary medication back into their state. Or perhaps they are made to consider relocating to a legal state, as medical cannabis refugees.
“It’s time to let the sun shine in,” said Sisley on marijuana, in reference to the fact that the plant has been in the hands of the black market for several decades.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 1 in 68 American children have some level of autism. Unfortunately, many of the FDA-approved drugs for the disorder are riddled with side effects and produce only moderate benefits anyway. Drugs such as Adderall and Prozac have even be known to make children more aggressive or extremely tired.
In contrast, there are no long-term or significant side effects from CBD treatment. Furthermore, CBD produces no psychoactive effects there are no ethical questions about administering it to children. Parents who have used high-CBD cannabis oil to treat their child’s autism overwhelmingly report that it improves mood, focus and concentration levels, as well as motor and cognitive function.
Scientists are confident that further studies will confirm the medicinal value of cannabis for autism. This could be life-changing for millions of children around the world.