Brief Report: Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Behavioral Problems—A Retrospective Feasibility Study

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence of successful cannabis treatment in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are accumulating but clinical studies are lacking. This retrospective study assessed tolerability and efficacy of cannabidiol-rich cannabis, in 60 children with ASD and severe behavioral problems (age = 11.8 ± 3.5, range 5.0–17.5; 77% low functioning; 83% boys). Efficacy was assessed using the Caregiver Global Impression of Change scale. Adverse events included sleep disturbances (14%) irritability (9%) and loss of appetite (9%). One girl who used higher tetrahydrocannabinol had a transient serious psychotic event which required treatment with an antipsychotic. Following the cannabis treatment, behavioral outbreaks were much improved or very much improved in 61% of patients. This preliminary study supports feasibility of CBD-based cannabis trials in children with ASD.

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The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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AA: Study conception and design; acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data; drafted manuscript; critically revised manuscript and gave final approval. CH and LA: Study conception; interpretation of data; critically revised manuscript and gave final approval. WN: Study design; acquisition of data; critically revised manuscript and gave final approval. EH: Study design; acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data; drafted manuscript; critically revised manuscript and gave final approval.

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Correspondence to Adi Aran.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Aran, A., Cassuto, H., Lubotzky, A. et al. Brief Report: Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Behavioral Problems—A Retrospective Feasibility Study. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 1284–1288 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3808-2

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Keywords

  • Cannabidiol
  • Medical cannabis
  • Medical marijuana
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Disruptive behavior