Here’s What Experts Say About Medical Marijuana as Treatment for Autism

New studies and skeptical experts

While early research seems promising, experts remain concerned that it is too early to determine if treatments are safe. In a few small studies in recent years, cannabis oil has been found to help some children with autism.

A new small study from Israel, where medical cannabis is federally recognized and approved for a variety of conditions, found that cannabis oil was “safe and effective” for the treatment of symptoms of ASD. The observational study collected data on behavior via parental self-reporting before and after treatment to examine quality of life and mood changes in 188 teens diagnosed with ASD.

After 6 months of treatment, 30 percent of patients reported significant improvement in symptoms, and more than 50 percent reported moderate improvement.

Knight raises numerous concerns about the study, however. Most notably that the study is supported by, and several of the authors are employees of Tikun Olam, the largest national provider of medical cannabis in Israeli.

Additionally, he says that the study doesn’t do enough to answer questions about safety.

“My major reservation with this report is they are reporting outcomes for side effects up to six months and I’m not concerned about short-term side effects of THC… Over the long term, I have grave concerns about what the outcomes might be,” he said.

Despite criticism, the findings are similar and appear to support similar conclusions from other studies from Israel.

One such study of cannabis treatment in 60 children with ASD found that behavioral outbreaks were improved in more than 60 percent of the patients.

Nonetheless, rigorous, large-scale, placebo-controlled trials are lacking — though one is slated to begin later this year in the United States.

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