Cannabis for Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

According to the CDC, about 1 in 59 children are identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with more people than ever being diagnosed. There is no specific treatment available for ASD; however, some anecdotal evidence of possible therapeutic effects of cannabis-based products has emerged. The results of a promising new study also demonstrates the potential of medical cannabis for children with ASD.

Over the course of two years, roughly 200 children under medical care for ASD were treated with medical cannabis (primarily CBD/THC oils). After one-month, symptoms were significantly improved in nearly half of the patients. By six-months, 80% of patients experienced at least moderate symptom improvement, primarily seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage attacks. In addition, quality of life and mood were improved.

Medical cannabis was generally well-tolerated in most patients, with only five patients discontinuing treatment due to adverse events. The most commonly reported side effects were restlessness, sleepiness, psychoactive effect, increased appetite, and digestive issues.

Although the results of this study suggest that cannabis treatment has the potential to improve ASD symptoms, controlled studies are needed to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in children with ASD.

Citation: Bar-Lev Schleider L, Mechoulam R, Saban N, Meiri G, Novack V. Real life experience of medical cannabis treatment in autism: Analysis of safety and efficacy. Nature. 2019. 9: 200.

Want to receive the latest science and insights on cannabis use in your inbox? Subscribe for free!