The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is preparing for a breakthrough in CBD autism research. In April 2018, the School of Medicine’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research announced a major private grant which will allow them to explore if cannabinoids can help families with autism spectrum disorders.
Can the study prove the effectiveness of CBD oil for autism? Researchers are hopeful that the clinical trial will be noteworthy for doctors and caregivers.
How did the CBD autism study come together?
Because the UCSD CBD autism study is the first of it’s kind, there will be many eyes on the results. Doctors, therapists and researchers will complete work funded by donations. Two organizations – the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation and the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation – pledged the $4.7 million gift funding the study. According to the university, the donation represents the largest gift of its kind.
With the money, doctors and researchers at the Center for Medical Cannabis Research expect to learn more about how CBD affects those with autism spectrum disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines autism spectrum disorder as “a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior.”
What will the CBD autism study cover?
Due to the complex nature of autism, it’s important to understand the research focus. According to NIMH, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) aren’t specific to any single race, background or medical history. Autism spectrum disorder symptoms include:
- Difficulty communicating with people and maintaining friendships
- A very limited scope of hobbies or interests
- Repetitive behaviors (similar to obsessive compulsive disorder)
- Difficulty functioning in school, work, or other normal life tasks
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because the condition has a wide range of symptoms and severity. Doctors recognize several forms of autism, including Asperger’s Disorder.
While there are many forms of ASD, the CBD autism clinical trial consists of 30 children, aged 8 to 12 years old, who display severe symptoms. The research team hopes to find out exactly how CBD improves quality of life for autism patients.
To determine effectiveness, the study will closely monitor the children after CBD treatments. The tests include behavioral analysis, MRI scans and brain activity monitors. The double-blind study will administer CBD to both groups, but in different phases.
Does CBD oil for autism work?
Because anecdotal evidence suggests CBD oils can help those with autism, there’s a real demand for clinical research. However, limited peer-reviewed research about CBD and autism exists.
A 2010 report written to O’Shaughnessy’s: The Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice a mother’s story about using CBD for her autistic child. Prior to their CBD-autism experiment, the child would chew uncontrollably and act out in fits of pain. After four months of using CBD, the mother says her son is more vocal, has less fits and stopped chewing on shirts. As a result, the doctor called for more CBD autism research.
This was followed by a 2015 report published to Neurotheraputics, investigating connections between the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) to autism. Although it was not a clinical trial (like the UCSD study), it was noteworthy for the evidence that cannabinoids could be useful in treating autism.
Why is the CBD autism study important?
The UCSD CBD autism is especially relevant to the future of cannabinoid-based medicine because of how it is conducted. This study is a double-blind trial, considered the “gold standard” of medical research. Under these terms, the research team will not know which treatment they are giving until the study is complete. This reduces the bias potential towards a positive or negative result.
Furthermore, because the research is an actual clinical trial at a medical college, the CBD autism study adds new validity to cannabinoids. In April 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended the approval of Epidolex for epilepsy. The active ingredient is cannabidiol – the same chemical found in many CBD oils.
Depending on the clinical trial results, the research could open doors for more investigation. It can even lead to a prescription-strength medication based on CBD for autism.
How could the CBD autism study change medicine?
It seems like research and criticism of CBD is unending. But this double-blind CBD autism study could change the course of medical research. The study could have both positive and negative results.
Currently, the FDA does not recognize CBD as a valid option to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent” epilepsy. Doctors can only prescribe approved drugs as a cure or prevention. If the CBD autism clinical trial is successful, doctors could potentially recommend CBD for autism in the future.
Moreover, the anecdotal evidence from families about CBD oil for autism would not only get validation, but would even receive validation. Families frustrated by prescription medications and therapy may find another legitimate treatment option.
The CBD autism clinical trial could also have downsides. If the trial is successful, you could see more CBD oils on the marketplace. As a result, more oils with lower-quality standards will be competing for your attention. If you try CBD oil for autism, look for products sourced in the United States. The best CBD oils go through CO2 extraction, and are independently verified for purity by a third-party lab.
The UCSD CBD autism clinical trial could be a watermark point for future cannabinoid studies. As doctors continue to research CBD oil, we’ll continue to track its progress.