Cannabis/Autism Treatment News Roundup
The latest on Autism.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that 1% of all children have autism. In their fact sheet, the WHO suggests a range of interventions and social supports for these children, even as they grow into adults with unique and diverse needs from their communities. Not surprisingly, the WHO does not appeat to comment on the promising results that cannabinoid medicines have given to a growing number of families and caregivers. Particularly, though not exclusively, in the UK, where 700,000 children have an autism diagnosis, some recent studies have come out which show marked improvement in symptom relief for autistic people of all ages. In addition, a recent show of philanthropy has put these valuable medicines in the hands of families who are still waiting on the country’s National Health Service to cover the medicines. Following is a roundup of these encouraging signs of progress.
Drop in Benzo/Neuroleptic Use with Cannabis Treatment in UK Adults: While many studies focus on symptom reduction, few concentrate on older patients, which is what makes this particular one so exciting. Drawing from autists enrolled in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, a larger patient database which collects information from patients throughout Britain, Imperial College researchers examined the results of both smoked cannabis and sublingual extracts on 74 patients. The mean age of these patients was 32, and they were followed for a period of six months. Interestingly, the THC:CBD ratio of these products was higher than usual; median doses for CBD for each patient was 10 mg, while the THC dosage was 112.5 mg.
As you probably could expect by now, the results were encouraging. Medical cannabis use was associated with a host of improvements, such as better sleep, less anxiety and higher quality-of-life ratings. Particularly encouraging was the drop in benzodiazepine and narcotic usage, each of which carry worrisome dependencies and side effects. As lead author of the paper (and consultant psychiatrist of Sapphire Medical Clinic, which administrates the UK Medical Cannabis Registry) Dr. James Rucker concluded, “These findings present a significant step forward for research in this area, although they form only the first step in a longer and more rigorous process of evaluation.”
UK Parents of Autistic Children to Get Free Medication: Did you know that medical cannabis would not be legal in the UK were it not for an autistic child? Billy Caldwell, then a 12-year-old in Northern Ireland, was taking medical cannabis, and after his treatment was discontinued, had to be hospitalized due to life-threatening seizures. His mother Charlotte, alongside the parents of six-year-old Alfie Dingley, took their cases to the public, and through their efforts initiated the beginnings of cannabis reform in that country (Matter of fact, Sapphire Medical Clinic was the first to open up shop in 2019). However, the process for gaining this treatment is slow, and some families have to rely on private prescriptions which can reach thousands of pounds a month.
As a stopgap measure, Charlotte Caldwell, whose son is now 17, has announced that three private manufacturers will provide cannabis medicines free of charge for all families currently applying for National Health Service funding. This process, done through the Refractory Epilepsy Specialist Clinical Advisory Service, can take up to eight months, during which parents must pay for whatever cannabis medicines they give their children out of pocket. This apparently is a lifesaver in more ways than one for parents going through the bureaucratic grind. One parent who is paying £780 monthly for cannabis medicines, told Sky News, "If we didn't have to worry about finding that money every four weeks to pay for a medication, it'd be a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.”
Israeli Study Shows Improved Social Communication Skills for Children and Young Adults: Meanwhile, in Israel, a good old-fashioned youth study involving 82 patients between the ages of five to 25 were given 20/1 CBD:THC extracts for a period of six months, with testing conducted during and immediately after treatment. The researchers noted “significant improvements” in most scores, particularly in social communication. Moving forward, the researchers suggested more randomized controlled tests and testing out different synthetic medicines as well as cannabis strains. Considering that the concept of the “entourage effect” arose from Israel, it’s not surprising that its researchers will continue to embrace the whole plant alongside synthetic medicine as well.