Studies reveal: 80% of autistic children see improvements with CBD

Gli studi rivelano: con il CBD l'80% dei bambini autistici vedono miglioramenti

Studies reveal: 80% of autistic children see improvements with CBD

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Israeli researchers have discovered further compelling evidence that medical cannabis is an effective therapy for children on the autism spectrum. In this study, forthcoming in the journal Neurology , researchers treated autistic children with high concentrations of CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.

The conditions of 80% of the children improved. Otherwise, the children showed no improvement with conventional drug therapies.

The Close Up Study

The study was conducted by the director of pediatric neurology at the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, Dr. Adi Aran, who treated the 60 children with an oil with a high concentration of CBD ( 20% CBD and 1% THC ). The children were treated with the oil for at least seven months.

After the treatment period, parents responded to assessment questionnaires to characterize their children's condition. These were questions about changes in behavior, anxiety levels and ability to communicate.

This is what they reported:

  • 80% of parents noted a decrease in problem behaviors, and 62% reported significant improvements.
  • Half of the children had improved in communication.
  • 40% reported a significant decrease in anxiety. (Note: One-third of participants began the study without anxiety.)

The Pioneer

Just as Israel is a pioneer in medical cannabis research, Aran is a pioneer in cannabinoid therapy for autism. Aran originally started a project in 2017 , testing 120 autistic children. It was the first study of its kind globally, and was made possible by funding from the Israeli government and its progressive approach to cannabis research.

Aran said that as word of the study spread, its waiting lists soon filled with the names of many families willing to participate, from all over Israel.

Autism spectrum disorders affect neurological development, and usually begin in infants or early childhood and last a lifetime. More severe cases have debilitating symptoms, including compulsive and repetitive behaviors and impaired social skills and communication. Some children cannot speak at all. Autism affects approximately 1% of the world's population.

The causes of autism are not yet understood and there is no cure - and the prevalence is increasing. In April 2018, the CDC updated its autism prevalence estimates to 1 in 59 children, up from 1 in 166 children in 2004. Doctors traditionally treat symptoms with antipsychotic drugs, which have harmful side effects. Some children do not respond to these drugs.

Aran began small research after similar studies on epilepsy, a disease that affects about 20 percent of autistic children. While studying epilepsy, researchers discovered that certain compounds in cannabis were likely to help some symptoms of autism as well. Less than 2% of the total population suffers from epilepsy, but up to 33% of autistic people also suffer from epilepsy.

Neuroscientist Thomas Deuel of Swedish Hospital in Seattle says there's definitely a connection. Although scientists don't fully understand the reasons behind the relationship, they suspect that the different brain development that occurs in autistic children is more likely to create circuits that cause seizures.

That connection has many parents seeking cannabis treatments for their autistic children. Parents certainly have anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of CBD oils on their autistic children, but mainstream medicine has remained skeptical due to the paucity of data. With most illnesses treated with Cannabis, anecdotal evidence and personal experiences far outweigh academic scientific research.

What's Next for CBD Research?

In 2015, Harvard University and Children's Hospital Boston published a landmark review of all the studies they had done up to that point on cannabis and autism, showing that the research was promising, but nothing could be said yet. definitive on the ability of Cannabis to improve pediatric patients. That Harvard review said most of the research was based on animals and did not yet show translational impact on human subjects. In fact, the review concluded with the warning that cannabis treatments should be used as a last resort, after all conventional therapies have failed. There is indeed widespread reluctance in the pediatric community to study the effects of cannabis on children, due to the potential for harmful side effects.

Since 2015, only a few small studies have been conducted, with promising results. One of the biggest impacts spurring future research was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of Epidiolex, a CBD oil remedy created by the pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals as a treatment for two rare types of childhood epilepsy. Scientists took note of the incredible amount of evidence GW presented regarding the drug's effects.

Now, New York University neurologist Orrin Devinsky, the same scientist who researched Epidiolex, is conducting two studies on the effects of CBD on children ages 5 to 18 with moderate to severe forms of autism. The only other doctor currently conducting such studies is Aran.

Since autism and epilepsy go hand in hand, CBD is showing promise for treating both.

Perhaps as doctors begin to see the effects of Epidiolex and review research like the Aran and Devinsky autism studies, more and more of them will begin to dive deeper into studying the use of medical cannabis.

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