Clinical trials will test if cannabis compound can treat autism
Researchers in New York are preparing to launch a major study on whether non-psychoactive compounds from the cannabis plant can treat autism.
Starting later this month, they will be running clinical trials on children and teens — some as young as 5-years-old.
The tests will be performed at Montefiore Medical Center and NYU Langone. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel also plan to conduct medical marijuana trials on autistic children, as well.
The Big Apple test subjects will range in age from 5 to 18 and have a confirmed diagnosis of moderate to severe autism, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.
They will be taking part in double-blind, placebo-controlled studies — meaning half of the participants will be given a fake compound instead of the real thing. Neither the researchers nor the children will know which one they received.
“Hopefully, it will be found to be effective, and hopefully, it will be found to be very safe for these individuals,” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and one of the lead researchers.
“There’s not been a huge amount of data generated in this area,” he told Live Science. “There’s a lot of religion and not a lot of science.”
Dr. Eric Hollander, clinical psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center, will be working with Devinsky on the study. The two will first test the effects of cannabidivarin (CBDV) on 100 children before moving on to another clinical trial at NYU involving CBD, or cannabidiol.
Many Americans have turned to CBD over the years — instead of pot — due to it being legal in all 50 states. Marijuana, meanwhile, is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA.
A nonprofit based in Utah, known as the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, has given $4.7 million to the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the UC San Diego School of Medicine to perform CBD trials on 30 autistic children, ages 8 to 12.
It’s the largest donation to date for medicinal marijuana research.
“I’ve spoken to parents who swear that this is effective,” Scott Badesch, president of the Autism Society of America, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But it needs to undergo scientific research.”