Medical marijuana extracts appear to help children with autism by reducing disruptive behavior and improving social skills, according to clinical trials from Israel.
The study involved 150 children with autism and separated them into three groups that received either:
- a pure blend of cannabis, including both CBD and THC, at a ratio of 20:1
- a whole-plant marijuana extract containing many cannabinoids
- or a placebo
The two groups that were treated with marijuana saw “a significant improvement in their symptoms.” About half of the children that were in the two marijuana groups saw improvements, well above the progress made in the placebo group. Researchers noted some side effects with children being treated with marijuana including a decrease in appetite and having sleep-related issues.
Study’s key takeaways
Despite encouraging results, researchers warned parents should wait for more data on medical cannabis before they treat their children with autism.
Thousands of parents already are treating their kids with cannabis based on rumors of this study. I don’t want it to be even more.
– Dr. Adi Aran, Director of Pediatric Neurology, Shaare Zedek Medical Center
And with one group being given an extract from the entire plant along with its numerous cannabinoids — more than just THC and CBD — it’s unknown what effect each of the other chemical compound has on the children.
Simon Baron-Cohen, president of the International Society for Autism Research, gave his thoughts on the study: “From the brief information, we must advise those considering this as a form of treatment to use caution, given the report of significant rates of unwanted side effects,” he said.
Another finding in the study looked at how THC effects the social challenges that autistic children face. According to Dr. Aran, “THC is known to impact the social area” of the brain.
While there’s been emerging evidence on CBD’s health benefits, stigma still surrounds THC because of its psychoactive traits and its therapeutic value might get overlooked. And overall with so many different cannabinoid compounds in the cannabis plant, there needs to be more comprehensive studies to help determine the true potential for cannabis as a medicine beyond CBD.