Medical Cannabinoids for Patients with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Parents Perspective
Parents to patients with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are in an endless search for treatment modalities to alleviate symptoms such as aggression, self- injury, restlessness, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity and other co-occurring conditions. In this study we report, for the first time, the experience of parents who administer oral oil-based cannabinoid extract to their child with ASD.
The aim of this study was to analyze parent's perspective on the usefulness of oral oil-based cannabinoid extract on their child with ASD.
Patients with diagnosis of ASD were administered oral drops of oil-based cannabinoid extract, after getting license from the Israeli Ministry of Health. The cannabinoid oil solution was prepared by "Tikkun Olam" company, at a concentration of 30% and 1/20 ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). During the first meeting, parents were instructed by a nurse practitioner how to administer the preparation. Thereafter, a weekly follow-up telephone interview was performed, where issues on efficacy and safety of the preparation were discussed. These reports were analyzed using statistical methods.
The parents of 53 patients with ASD and a mean age of 11.6 (4-22) years participated in this study. Mean duration of treatment was 66 (30-588) days. Mean daily CBD and THC dose were 102 (1.5 – 315) and 8.4 (0.5-49.5) [mean (range)]mg, respectively. Hyperactivity symptoms, reported among 38 patients, were improved in 26 patients (68.4%), not changed in 11 cases (28.9%) and worsened in 1 patient. Self-injury and rage attacks, reported among 34 patients, was improved in 23 cases (67.7%), not improved in 8 cases (15.1%) and worsened in 3 cases (8.8%), after the administration of the cannabis. Sleep disturbances, described in 21 patients, were improved in 15 patients (71.4%), not changed in 5 cases (23.8%), and worsened in 1 case. Anxiety and mood changes, reported in 17 patients, were improved in 8 cases (47.1%), not changed in 5 patients (29.4%), and worsened in 4 patients (23.5%). When parents were asked on overall change of ASD symptoms, 43.1% described a significant improvement, 31.4% mentioned any improvement, 21.6% described no change of symptoms, and worsening of symptoms was reported in 2 cases (3.9%). 5 families discontinued treatment. The most common reported adverse effects were somnolence and nausea, which resolved spontaneously.
This study showed that cannabidiol is probably effective in improving ASD co-occurring symptoms, with few and transient adverse effects, however, the long-term effect and safety of these preparations should be evaluated in further large-scale, controlled studies.