Review: Data is “Promising” Regarding Use of Cannabinoids for Autism

Paraiba, Brazil: Cannabinoids hold “promise” in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a systematic review of clinical trials published in the journal Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.

A team of Brazilian researchers identified nine clinical trials assessing the use of cannabinoids in patients with ASD. Subjects in five of the trials were administered plant-derived oil extracts. Two studies assessed the use of CBD only, one study evaluated the use of cannabidivarin (CBDV), and the final study assessed the use of synthetic oral THC (dronabinol).

Studies identified beneficial changes in autism symptoms following cannabinoid therapy, including “decreased bouts of self-mutilation and anger, hyperactivity, sleep problems, anxiety, restlessness, psychomotor agitation, irritability, perseverance, aggressiveness, and depression [and] improvement in sensory sensitivity, cognition, attention, social interaction, and language.” Side-effects were generally “mild to moderate,” including sleep disturbances, fatigue, diarrhea, and increased appetite. 

Authors concluded, “Cannabis and cannabinoids have very promising effects in the treatment of autistic symptoms and can be used in the future as an important therapeutic alternative.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabis and cannabinoid use in autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review,” appears in Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. Additional information on cannabis and autism is available from NORML.