Doctors Using Cannabis to Treat Autism in First-of-Its-Kind Study

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After seeing marijuana’s success in treating epilepsy, an Israeli pediatrician has launched a clinical trial to study the effects of medical cannabis on autistic children and adults.

According to Haaretz, Dr. Adi Eran, head of the pediatrics neurology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, will be heading up the endeavor, which is in the process of obtaining permits from the Health Ministry. The study will reportedly involve 120 autistic individuals, male and female, aged 4 to 30, who are defined as low to medium functioning. Participants will be given cannabis oils free of THC but rich in CBD.

“Per the norm in proper clinical research, participants will be divided into two groups: the test group that actually ingests the oil, and the control subjects who will be given placebos,” Haaretz reported. “After a test period during which the effects on the patients will be recorded, treatment will be halted for a month, then the groups will be reversed—the test group will become the control group and vice versa. Again, as is typical in such research, at no point will subjects or their families know whether the patient is receiving CBD or a placebo.”

According to the Jewish News Service, the research will focus on behavioral symptoms such as physical aggression and attacks deriving from acute anxiety. Although cannabis oil is not a recognized treatment for autism, Eran explained that several dozen Israelis suffering from disorder have received approved prescriptions due to the severity of their symptoms, and anecdotal evidence has shown cannabis oil to be effective.

“It isn’t that they’re stoned because the oil has no psycho-active component,” said pediatric nurse Naama Saban. “Their parents say the quality of life has completely changed. That for the first time, their little kids can have friends over and the big brother doesn’t go wild.”

Reports state that a subcommittee of the Health Ministry is currently reviewing rules that would define criteria for using medical marijuana to treat autism.

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