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There is no treatment or cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but researchers have long studied how to help patients cope with their symptoms. Claiming Autism is in need of a cure is in itself controversial–particularly when it comes to people with autism who may feel the terminology misunderstands their concerns.
CBD and Autism
Scientists are now studying whether cannabidiol, CBD, could provide some help for easing symptoms that enfridge on the individuals with autism’s life or pursuits.
Recently there was a $4.7 million gift, from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation, for researchers at the University of San Diego’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR). A clinical trial plans to be carried out with 30 children participants. The study will include children between ages 8 and 12, all of whom are diagnosed with “moderate to severe” ASD but are otherwise perfectly healthy. This study will be the first of its kind.
The study will involve a multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists. They will be using basic research, technologies, stem cells, and clinical assessments to better understand how CBD alters the brain’s chemical activity. The study will also measure if CBD effectively and safely lessens the more debilitating symptoms of ASD, including “aggressive behaviors, repetitive or self-injurious behaviors, hyperactivity, and social and communicative deficits.”
Autism is difficult to diagnose. Unlike other disorders, which can diagnosed through a blood test, ASD cannot. Instead doctors must rely on observing a child’s behavior and development. Typically they have a diagnosis as easy as two years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Children with level 3, often considered the most severe, require substantial support.These cases often lead to a child’s parent or guardian seeking out unconventional remedies, according to Dr. Igor Grant, director of CMCR.
Dr. Grant furthermore stated, “There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety.” However, with this recent donation, they will finally be able to host clinical trials to better understanding if cannabidiol has therapeutic potential when it comes to level 3 Autism.
The misconceptions surrounding medical marijuana in the pediatric population come from negative associations with the term marijuana–due to its psychoactive effects. Marijuana describes dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant. Marijuana contains many different chemicals called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are derived from the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with specific receptors, CB receptors, within our bodies.
Cannabis refers to 3 species of hemp plants Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis. The over 60 cannabinoids now identified vary by degree of psychoactivity. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) more commonly associated with marijuana is psychoactive. However, other cannabinoids, including CBD, are not.
There are abundant anecdotal reports cannabidiol (CBD) can impact the brain profoundly, and address a range of neurological disorders from depression, anxiety, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder to drug addictions.
ASD impacts approximately one in 68 U.S. children, largely boys. The neurodevelopmental disorder is complex and not well understood. It is suspected inherited genetic mutations, environmental conditions, and metabolic dysfunction could all play a role.
Dr. Doris Trauner, a professor of neurosciences and pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and an attending pediatric neurologist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego with special expertise in neurodevelopmental disabilities reports, “The most exciting part of this novel study is that the findings could have tremendous implications for not just children with autism, but for children with other types of neurodevelopmental disabilities.” As primary investigator, Trauner will be in charge of framework and execution of the clinical trial.
CBD’s possible treatment of ASD symptoms is still to be determined.