Review: Cannabinoids “Promising” for Treating Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Catania, Italy: The administration of cannabinoids is associated with symptom improvements in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and show promise as potential treatment option, according to a systematic review of relevant studies published in the journal Brain Sciences.

Italian investigators reviewed data from ten published studies and four ongoing clinical trials. They reported: “In the present systematic review, we found preliminary evidence showing that cannabinoids might exert beneficial effects on some ASD-associated symptoms, such as behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and sleep disorders, with a lower number of metabolic and neurological side effects than [prescription] medications. Importantly, treatment with cannabinoids allowed [patients] to reduce the number of prescribed medication and significantly reduced the frequency of seizures in participants with comorbid epilepsy.”

They concluded: “The findings were promising, as cannabinoids appeared to improve some ASD-associated symptoms, such as problem behaviors, sleep problems, and hyperactivity, with limited cardiac and metabolic side effects. … Future studies investigating the acute effects of cannabinoids in people with ASD on neurotransmitters levels could clarify the mechanisms of action of cannabinoids. Moreover, the comparison with healthy samples might clarify at least some aspects of the etiopathology of ASD and lay the ground for potential treatments for core and associated symptoms.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabinoids for people with ASD: A systematic review of published and ongoing studies,” appears in Brain Sciences.