Cannabis seen as possible treatment for autism disorders

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Cannabis was found to be a safe and effective treatment option for children with autism spectrum disorders in a recent study.

“Overall, more than 80 percent of the parents reported significant or moderate improvement in their child,” according to Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute in Israel, in a news release.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that cannabis helped relieve symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage attacks and was a well-tolerated, safe and effective treatment option.

The study followed 188 children who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The children, age 18 and under, were treated with medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017. After six months of treatment, 30 percent of patients reported a significant improvement, 53.7 percent reported moderate improvement, and only 15 percent had slight or no change.

Quality of life


Quality of life, mood and ability to perform activities of daily living were assessed prior to treatment and at six months. Good quality of life was reported by 31.3 percent of patients prior to treatment initiation. At six months, good quality of life more than doubled to 66.8 percent. Positive mood was reported as 42 percent before treatment and 63.5 after six months.

The ability to dress and shower independently improved significantly from cannabis treatment. Only a quarter (26.4 percent) reported no difficulty prior to the treatment while 42.9 percent improved their ability to dress and shower independently at six months.

Cannabis oil medication also significantly improved sleep and concentration. Good sleep and concentration were reported by 3.3 percent and zero percent respectively at the outset vs. 24.7 percent and 14 percent during an active treatment.

More autism research needed

Researchers say that while the results are encouraging, more extensive research is needed.

“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 Dr. Victor Novack, of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an extensive developmental disorder that is expressed in almost all dimensions of the child’s development. It is now common to refer to this disorder as a wide range of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in which there are various manifestations and symptoms.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for ConsumerAffairs.com and FairfaxNews.com.