A group of Israeli researchers have been exploring the use of CBD to reduce problem behaviors in children on the autism spectrum. A feasibility study involving 60 children found substantial improvement in behavioral outbreaks, anxiety and communication problems, as well as stress levels reported by parents.
CBD is still pretty new, so there’s very little research about its safety or how well it works, especially for children. So far, there’s only one marijuana-derived medication that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s called Epidiolex, and it’s used to treat a rare form of epilepsy in patients who are at least two years old.
Last year the World Health Organization, acknowledging the explosion in “unsanctioned” medical uses of CBD, reviewed the evidence for its safety and effectiveness. The WHO report concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” Any adverse effects could be a result of interactions between CBD and a patient’s existing medications, the WHO noted.
Though CBD — full name cannabidiol — is extracted from marijuana or hemp, it doesn’t contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that has psychoactive effects, so it doesn’t make you feel high.
CBD and autism
In the US, research has been given a boost by changing guidelines and laws. In 2015 the DEA eased some of the regulatory requirements that have made CBD, as a Schedule 1 substance, difficult to study. “Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications,” the DEA said in announcing the change.
“The biggest problem is there’s a lot that we still need to know, especially in kids,” says Paul Mitrani, MD, a clinical psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. “In regards to treating mental health disorders in children and adolescents, there’s a lack of evidence to support its use.”
Because CBD is so new, there also aren’t a lot of rules about what can and cannot be included in CBD products. So, there’s a huge variety in the quality of products. You may even find different amounts of CBD in different packages of the same product.
What do we know about CBD?
Dr. Mitrani, who is a pediatrician and child and adolescent psychiatrist, says it’s an area worthy of investigation but recommends that parents wait until further research is done before giving a child CBD.
These days, you can find CBD everywhere. Some people believe that it can treat everything from chronic pain and cancer to anxiety and ADHD. But is it safe for kids?
Overall change in ASD comorbidity symptoms.
Six children were excluded because they were treated for less than a month. None of them has discontinued treatment nor had adverse effects. A total of 266 interviews were performed (median 5 interviews per patient).
Children with ASD commonly have comorbid symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity and anxiety. There is an increase in the use of cannabidiol in children with ASD. Based on parents’ reports, our findings suggest that cannabidiol may be effective in improving ASD comorbid symptoms; However, CBD efficacy and safety should be further evaluated in children with ASD in large-scale clinical trials.
Conclusion: Parents’ reports suggest that cannabidiol may improve ASD comorbidity symptoms; however, the long-term effects should be evaluated in large scale studies.
Fifty- three patients were included in the study, 45 males (85%) and 8 females (15%). The median age was 11 (range: 4–22) years (Table (Table1). 1 ). Median duration of follow-up was 66 (range: 30–588) days. THC median interquartile range (IQR) daily dose was 7 (4–11) mg and CBD median (IQR) daily dose was 90 (45–143) mg.
Reports on 38 children with hyperactivity symptoms were recorded. Of them, 68.4% had improvement of symptoms, 28.9% had no change and worsening of symptoms was reported in 2.6%. The improvement was not statistically different from that of the conventional treatment published in the literature (p = 0.125).
Patients characteristics and baseline symptoms.