Australian Researchers Announce Phase I/II Cannabidiol Trial for Autistic Children

A group of researchers affiliated with children’s hospitals and universities in the Australian state of Victoria recently published clinical trial protocols for a single-site, double-blind, parallel-group, randomised, placebo-controlled pilot study of cannabidiol (CBD) in 10 children with intellectual disabilities and severe behavioral problems to determine the feasibility of a large-scale randomized clinical trial to provide conclusive data on efficacy of CBD in this population.

The authors note:

The use of medicinal cannabis to treat children and adolescents with behavioural problems has been discussed in the mainstream media (Ellison K. Medical Marijuana: No Longer Just for Adults. New York Times, 21 November 2009), and parents have described ‘the transformative power of medical cannabis’ for their children with ID +SBP (eg, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism). Anecdotally, some parents have reported giving non-prescribed unregulated cannabis products to their children to help with their behaviour, and increasingly Australian parents of children with developmental disabilities and/or mental health disorders are asking their paediatricians if medicinal cannabis would be a useful treatment and whether they can assist them in obtaining it for their child. Research to date suggests that CBD has substantially less side effects than antipsychotic medications, however, there is currently insufficient evidence to inform its use in treating SBP. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians have highlighted the need for further research into the therapeutic uses of cannabinoids in youth.

While there is plentiful anecdotal evidence and several small studies examining the efficacy of cannabis derived compounds in autistic children, no large-scale trial has yet been conducted. The Autism Science Foundation states:

To date, there is limited research, and no evidence, on the potential short-term, long-term or  neurodevelopmental risks and benefits of medical marijuana or its related compounds in ASD.

The CBD Awareness Project notes that as of January 2020, CBD is still illegal in Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota, despite hemp’s federally legal status.

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