Autism Spectrum Disorder and Cannabidiol: Have We Seen This Movie Before?


Carlos A. Salgado, MD1 and Daniel Castellanos, MD1

Received July 5, 2018. Received revised October 9, 2018. Accepted for publication October 23, 2018.


Recently, the use of marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has received increasing attention in the media with articles

sensationally titled “Marijuana may be a miracle treatment for children with autism.”1,2 An absence of empirical data appears to have resulted in a growing body of

anecdotal evidence espousing the benefits of CBD for children with ASD. Some reports describe the effects as miraculous or “unbelievable.”2 Increasingly, parents of

children with severe ASD, frustrated with the lack of options, have turned to CBD. Many have heard anecdotal reports of success; others have read of promising

results with epileptic children. Parents who frequently felt they had exhausted all other options have turned to CBD as a “last resort.” An increasing number of parents

are advocating for their children to be treated with CBD.3 Vocal parents have taken to the internet utilizing social media to distribute their message.4 However, clinical

research remains nearly nonexistent.


History is laced with similar examples of parents and professionals attempting to help children with ASD. In

1998, Horvath and colleagues5 reported “dramatic improvement” in the behaviors of 3 children with ASD

after intravenous administration of secretin, followed by renowned autism expert Bernard Rimland’s6 report on


the behavioral, cognitive, and sensory improvements of a child who was administered secretin. On the basis of these first reports many parents of children with ASD pursued treatment with secretin, although secretin was not a proven, effective treatment and there was inadequate information about side effects. Since then, 16 randomized, placebo-controlled trials studying over 900 children have demonstrated a lack of evidence supporting that a single or multiple dose intravenous secretin is effective in improving the core symptoms of ASD (social and emotional reciprocity; restrictive, repetitive behaviors). Currently, secretin is not to be recommended as an evidence-based treatment for individuals with ASD.7 Another such example is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)...


Global Pediatric Health

Volume 5: 1–5 © The Author(s) 2018


References

1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2333794X18815412


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