Real Life Experience
of Medical Cannabis in Autism
Over the last three decades a three fold increase in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has been observed throughout the world. There are no specific treatments currently available for ASD with most therapy geared towards teaching patients self-help techniques to allow more independence and lessen instances of disruptive behavior. The motivation to conduct this study came from previous research which indicated that cannabidiol (CBD) could be beneficial in children with autism, especially in improving anxiety levels, limiting seizures, and curbing behavioral outbreaks. Another study using a THC-based drug likewise found cannabis to provide symptom relief for patients demonstrating hyperactivity, lethargy, irritability, stereotypy, and inappropriate speech. Although many have already begun turning to cannabis for treatment, there remains a lack of knowledge regarding safety profile, and symptoms most likely to improve in ASD as a result of using cannabis. This study, led by Dr. Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, aimed to solve this problem by characterizing the epidemiology of ASD patients treated with Tikun Olam’s CBD-rich cannabis-oil extracted from our Avidekel strain. Their goal was to better describe the safety and efficacy of CBD as a treatment for ASD.
A pediatric test population of 188 ASD patients initiated treatment. Patients first responded to a questionnaire that observed symptoms including: rage attacks, restlessness, agitation, sleep problems, speech impairment, cognitive impairment, anxiety, seizures, tics, and depression. These symptoms were revisited at the one and six month marks. For treatment, cannabis oil was administered orally under the tongue three times a day at varying concentrations depending on a given child’s sensitivity to medication.
After one month, 79.8% of patients reported moderate to significant improvement in symptoms with minimal side effects. This number rose slightly after six months to 83.8% reporting improvements. Good quality of life improved from 31.3% of patients to 66.8% by the end of treatment. Positive mood also increased with 63.5% reporting affirmatively, up from 42%. Of those patients who experienced seizures when the study began, 84.2% reported disappearance of the symptom after six months, with all others indicating less frequent episodes. Restlessness improved in 91% of patients, while rage attacks decreased in 90.3%. Significantly, 34.3% managed to decrease other medications, while 20% on antipsychotics stopped altogether.
This research is highly encouraging and represents a positive step forward in understanding and treating ASD. Researchers concluded the CBD appeared well-tolerated, safe and effective in patients, and even helped some limit the number of medications they needed to take. The best symptom improvement was seen in seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks. Moods improved as did quality of life. Yet, scientists urged caution in interpreting these findings as they do not provide definitive answers regarding what precise mechanism of the cannabis plant, and CBD in particular, effects ADS patients. Many questions were answered by Dr. Schleider and Dr. Mechoulam in this test, but many new ones were raised that they and the rest of Tikun Olam’s team of researchers will continue to pursue and answer.