This paper looks at the evaluation of the efficacy of dronabinol (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) as a potential therapy for children with autistic spectrum disorders. THC is the psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis plant. The results of this study were positive and promising for treating children with autism, however, the study was too small to be representative.
Here is the full scientific article if you wish to download it.
Dronabinol shows apparent potential for application in supplementary treatment of autism. The autistic child in this study was measured with the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist, showing above average responses in irritability, lethargy, hyperactivity, inappropriate speech and stereotype. After 6 months of treatment with gradually increasing doses of dronabinol, the child showed significantly reduced responses in all the problematic areas. There were no side effects noted in the time from the cannabis oil.
This study does not meet the standard for a representative clinical trial and cannot be relied on for directing agencies, for example the food and drug administration, to prescribe dronabinol. There was no control group, the sample size was 1 child and there was no follow up. This makes the study barely better than anecdotal evidence.
The difficulties autistic children face with social interactions such as avoiding eye contact, repetitive behaviours, and difficulties learning in a normal social environment make the symptoms of autism a barrier to many of the opportunities most children. Autism has a huge personal and social impact, making any effective treatments invaluable. The changing legal environment surrounding cannabis in the United States and other parts of the world should make further research easier to pursue and the benefits and drawbacks of this treatment can be established scientifically. As a potential treatment for autism, medical cannabis has potential. Severe autism often requires powerful drugs to control the symptoms, which can have serious side effects. The tolerance of THC demonstrated in this study and its apparent positive effects, along with cannabidiol CBD (a close relative of THC), imply these drugs should be pursued as ways to treat autism. Double-blind, random control trials that take place in a children’s hospital or other controlled environment will give higher quality data that parents and paediatricians can use.