Can CBD treat childhood autism? An Israeli study shows promise

Can CBD treat childhood autism? An Israeli study shows promise

A study published in the Neurology, which showed positive results among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) treated with cannabidiol (CBD), is now spurring on a clinical trial. The stud was led by Dr. Adi Aran, Director of Pediatric Neurology at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital. Dr Aran is a pioneer in the study of using cannabinoid therapy to treat autism.

Sixty children who hadn’t benefited from traditional autism therapies were treated with CBD for three months. Eighty percent of the children improved in behavioral changes, anxiety levels, and/or communication. These results gave Dr. Aran the push to begin a larger clinical trial. He is now the lead researcher on the world’s largest clinical study on the efficacy and safety of cannabis for treating autism. The trial will conclude in January 2019.

Dr. Aran hadn’t originally set out to study CBD. But when he met parents hoping to help treat their children’s autism, he was inspired to study the possibility for CBD to help, he told the Israeli Haaretz News. Many of these parents had tried everything from gluten free diets, to oxygen therapy and anti-psychotic medicines, all without seeing any improvement in their children’s condition. Dr. Aran was initially skeptical, due to a lack of evidence. But the parents were desperate. Eventually, Dr. Aran asked the Israel Ministry of Health for permission to do a small observational study. The results were dramatic.

The Ministry of Health, which has its own cannabis unit, is progressive on cannabis research. They now are conducting clinical trials on cannabinoid treatment of insomnia, Tourette’s, Parkinson’s Disease, and traumatic brain injuries, among other conditions.

Over the last ten years, reported cases of autism have tripled in Israel, partly due to better awareness and diagnosis. In the U.S., cases have grown from 1 in 166 children in 2004, to 1 in 59 in 2018, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“These findings urgently warrant a significant increase in life-enhancing research and access to high quality services for people with autism across the spectrum and throughout their lifespan,” says Autism Speaks President Angela Geiger.

Dr. Aran, like families of children with autism, was thrilled about the success of his first study.

“[Parents] say the child is more present,” he says.