Can Cannabis Treat Autism? Researchers Set To Find Out
Researchers from Israel are in the process of initiating a first of its kind study that will analyze the effects of medical cannabis on adults and children with autism. Dr. Adi Eran is the head of the pediatric neurology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and is currently attempting to gain permits from Israel's Ministry of Health. If successful, the study will be given the go ahead to test 120 subjects ranging from 4 to 30 in age and who are classified as low to medium functioning autistic individuals.
CBD COULD BE KEY
The research will focus on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD which is gaining traction across the world as a natural therapeutic capable of assisting and even treating a vast array of disorders and diseases. The study subjects will be divided into two groups consisting of 60 individuals. Researchers will then administer CBD oil to one group and give the other group a placebo. Half way through the trial the administration of CBD oil will be given to the group who previously received a placebo, and a placebo will be given to the group who first received the CBD oil.
The primary focus of the research will be how the now famous cannabinoid affects behavioral symptoms common in people with autism such as physical aggression towards themselves and others, and anxiety attacks.
ANECDOTAL ACCOUNTS LOOK PROMISING
Autism is defined as "a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts". Autism is referred to medically as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) due to the large spectrum on which different forms and magnitude of severity the disorder can manifest as. The exact cause of ASD has not yet been identified but it is believed it could have its roots in both genetic and environmental factors.
Although there is no known cure for ASD, it is hoped that this research will at least open up another potential avenue of treatment for those with the disorder. There is a huge lack of formal scientific studies demonstrating how cannabis and its active constituents can combat autism, however there are growing numbers of anecdotal accounts that show it can be effective.
One example of this is the case of Kalel Santiago, a 9 year old boy diagnosed with non-verbal autism. Shortly after receiving CBD oil he broke his life long silence and emitted his first words.
Another profound account occurred when Mieko Hester-Perez, scientific adviser for Cannabis Science and board member for NORML Women's Alliance, publicised her story regarding her autistic son. After administering her son with medical cannabis, documented progressive development was seen. Hester-Perez went on to become one of the most influential individuals for families and movements seeking to harness unconventional treatments in the areas of ASD.
Several states in the US have legalised cannabis for medical purposes, yet the application of the herb is limited to certain categories of ailments. Yet Pennsylvania may be on the road to passing the first bill that legalises the use of medical cannabis specifically for autism, among several other diseases and disorders. Several activist groups around the US have been pushing for legalisation in this area for some time. One such group is Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA) who have been pressuring states to allow the herb to be utilised in the realm of ASD.
MAMMA sum up their work: "MAMMA was founded in 2014 to address the growing epidemic of autism with therapeutic cannabis - a safe, affordable and effective medicine."
ISRAEL LEADING THE CHARGE
Medical cannabis is legal in Israel for patients with certain conditions. The Israeli government has a proactive and innovating stance on cannabis research in comparison to more draconian approaches as witnessed in the United States and other stricter nations.
A more relaxed stance has led to some productive and groundbreaking research emerging. One study found anti-cancer potential relating to cannabis. Others explored the effects of medical cannabis on colitis, tinnitus and Chron's disease. Examples of the in-depth research underway in Israel can be explored here.
Hopefully, if permit requests are successful, Eran's research efforts will further display the healing potential of cannabis and its application in relieving and possibly treating autism.
Written by: Guest Writer
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