New study aims to prove that marijuana can help to treat the symptoms of Autism

Published Oct 14, 2019 09:00 a.m. ET
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GW Pharmaceutical is nestled on 47 acres of land in the English countryside. The FDA has approved this parcel of land to be the home of a drug company permitted to produce cannabis-based medication.

Montefiore Medical Center in New York has undertaken the task of examining the effects of cannabidivarin, commonly known as CBDV, from the marijuana plants. This compound will be studied for the impact that it has on repetitive behavior and irritability in children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. CBDV is not psychoactive and thereby will not produce a "high."

47 acres of medical marijuana

The 47 acres, which is equal roughly to 42 football fields is dedicated to growing consistent and high-quality strains of the marijuana plants for medicine. The specialty marijuana plants grown at this facility will become medicine for thousand upon thousands of medical marijuana patients. The company has been in the works for about twenty years. However, it wasn't till 2018 that the FDA approved Epidiolex, which is the first cannabis-based oral medication that has been proven to be beneficial for the treatment of two specific and life-changing types of children’s epilepsy. The medicine, CBD is extracted from the marijuana plants.

The success of finding a cannabis-based treatment for epilepsy ignited cannabis research to start looking for another cannabis-based drug. This one would be to help another neurological disorder that also has very few treatment options available. This disease is Autism. The two disorders have many similar behavioral symptoms. The director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsion Spectrum Program, Dr. Eric Hollander, is leading the Cannabis research. He believes strongly that the cannabis extract CBDV holds a bright light for treating Autism.

The research

Currently, there is no cure known for Autism, but Hollander is brightly optimistic that CBDV could be the breakthrough that will correct the behaviors and symptoms that are often associated with autism behavior.The cannabis science sector is busy; scientists have launched clinical cannabis trials. The aim is to follow 100 participants whose ages range from 5-18. The cannabis research will continue for 12 weeks. The estimation is the study will be finalized in late 2021.

As many parents of severely autistic children look towards cannabis as being a help in the treatment of Autism, the issue leaves some experts conflicting in their opinions. The diagnosis of Autism for any child, especially if the child is diagnosed with severe ASD, is devastating, and parents are desperately looking for a solution. The director and founder of the Center for Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Research at Boston Children’s Hospital has a warning. He warns physicians and health professionals, to be cautious in what they recommended for treatment. Parents are desperate to try anything to help the child.

A small study from Israel where medical cannabis is federally approved for various conditions discovered that cannabis oil was effective and safe for the treatment of ASD. The study results are unfortunately questionable as employees of Tikun Olam support the research.  The research is also flawed, and it does not address or help to answer questions regarding safety. The Tikkun Olam company is the largest provider of medical marijuana in Israel and is on the cutting edge of cannabis science advancement.

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