Israeli doctors to use cannabis to treat autism in first-of-its-kind study

Evidence that cannabinoids can help improve the quality of life of autistic people has, until now, been anecdotal. Now an Israeli doctor is launching a formal clinical trial of “medical cannabis” among autistic children and teenagers – the first of its type.

Dr. Adi Eran, who is heading up the endeavor, is in the process of obtaining permits from the Health Ministry for the study, which will involve 120 autistic individuals, male and female, aged 4 to 30, who are defined as low to medium functioning.
As is usual when medical cannabis is administered, participants will be given cannabis oils free of the intoxicating substance but rich in cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active chemicals found in cannabis.

Eran, head of the pediatrics neurology department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, has obtained the authorization in principle from the Israel Health Ministry for his tests. He is presently working on obtaining permits and finding subjects from other local hospitals, as well as from psychiatric facilities and centers dealing with childhood development.
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. 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.

The study will focus specifically on a certain segment of behavioral symptoms typical of certain autistic individuals, including physical aggression toward themselves and others, attacks that can be accompanied by acute anxiety.

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