Medical cannabis oil for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appears to be a well-tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks, according to a new study by Israeli researchers from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center.
The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, also show that cannabis treatment can significantly improve sleep and concentration.
“Overall, more than 80 percent of the parents reported significant or moderate improvement in their child,” said Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute.
Autistic spectrum disorder is an extensive developmental disorder that is expressed in almost all areas of a child’s development. ASD is commonly considered to be a wide range of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) in which there are various manifestations and symptoms.
For the study, researchers evaluated the data of 188 ASD children up to 18 years old who were treated with medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017.
“The treatment in the majority of patients was based on cannabis oil containing 30 percent cannabidiol oil (CBD) and 1.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” said Dr. Gal Meiri of the Negev Autism Center at BGU. “Symptoms, patient global assessment and side effects at six months were primary outcomes of interest and were assessed by structured questionnaires.”
Overall, 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, mood and ability to perform daily living activities were evaluated 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.
In addition, 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.
Medical cannabis oil also significantly improved sleep and concentration. Before treatment, good sleep and concentration had been reported by only 3.3 percent and zero percent respectively vs. 24.7 percent and 14 percent during active treatment.
“While this study suggests 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.