Children and adolescents with ASD treated with CBD-rich cannabis exhibit significant improvements particularly in social symptoms: an open label study

Translational Psychiatry

“In recent years there has been growing interest in the potential benefits of CBD-rich cannabis treatment for children with ASD. Several open label studies and one double-blind placebo-controlled study have reported that CBD-rich cannabis is safe and potentially effective in reducing disruptive behaviors and improving social communication. However, previous studies have mostly based their conclusions on parental reports without the use of standardized clinical assessments.

Here, we conducted an open label study to examine the efficacy of 6 months of CBD-rich cannabis treatment in children and adolescents with ASD. Longitudinal changes in social communication abilities and restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRB) were quantified using parent report with the Social Responsiveness Scale and clinical assessment with the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). We also quantified changes in adaptive behaviors using the Vineland, and cognitive abilities using an age-appropriate Wechsler test. Eighty-two of the 110 recruited participants completed the 6-month treatment protocol.

While some participants did not exhibit any improvement in symptoms, there were overall significant improvements in social communication abilities as quantified by the ADOS, SRS, and Vineland with larger improvements in participants who had more severe initial symptoms. Significant improvements in RRB were noted only with parent-reported SRS scores and there were no significant changes in cognitive scores.

These findings suggest that treatment with CBD-rich cannabis can yield improvements, particularly in social communication abilities, which were visible even when using standardized clinical assessments. Additional double-blind placebo-controlled studies utilizing standardized assessments are highly warranted for substantiating these findings.”

“Accumulating evidence, mostly from open-label uncontrolled studies suggest that CBD-rich cannabis may yield benefits for some individuals with ASD. In this study we demonstrate that this benefit includes improvement in social communication abilities, particularly for participants with high initial severity of core ASD symptoms. Moreover, this is the first study to examine the efficacy of cannabis treatment using both standardized clinical assessments (i.e., ADOS), parent interviews (i.e., Vineland) and questionnaires (i.e., SRS). Despite differences in individual scores reported by parents and clinicians, the convergence of evidence regarding overall improvements following treatment strengthens the conclusions. These positive findings motivate further double-blind placebo-controlled studies for determining the efficacy of treatment with specific cannabis strains and/or synthetic cannabinoids.”

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