About 1 percent of the children around the world suffer from autism. Autism is a mental disorder that makes communication, forming relationships, speaking and understanding abstract concepts difficult. Marijuana is being researched as a treatment for autism in more severe cases where patients are more violent and symptoms are more intense.
There are several types of drugs prescribed for autism such as Ritalin. These drugs last a few hours but wear off and can increase autism symptoms. Parents of autism patients have expressed a general concern for these drugs and their effectiveness in dealing with autism. Dr. Adi Aran, a pediatric neurologist in Jerusalem has experimented with marijuana as a treatment for autism. The feedback of his patients’ parents have advocated marijuana as a better treatment for autism then anything they’ve tried before.
The effectiveness of marijuana for medicinal purposes has gained more traction especially after the benefits it provides to epilepsy patients have come to light. Epilepsy seizures are caused by reduced inhibition. Studies have shown that CBD can be an effective treatment for epilepsy because of its ability to increase inhibition in patients. Also improved in epilepsy patients were behavior, communication and social interactions.
Although the U.S. has seen marijuana legalization in several states, it is still federally illegal, making it almost impossible to be studied and researched as a treatment for autism. As of now only Georgia, Oregon and Pennsylvania can prescribe marijuana to autistic patients. This potentially will make Israel a leader in medical marijuana, as it has a government-sponsored marijuana program that allows the distribution for medical reasons. This allows it to be researched as Dr. Aran has been doing for many years.
In Dr. Aran’s first study of marijuana for autism, more than half of patients saw reduced autism symptoms and a third began to speak for the first time. One patient told their mother they loved her for the first time ever. Another study in 2017 by Dr. Aran integrated a placebo, where patients took either marijuana or the placebo for three months and then the latter for another three months. The results are expected later this year and they could be groundbreaking. Although Dr. Aran doesn’t know which patients are being administered the placebo, parents of patients will usually call him to plead with him to give their kids the drug that was working.