New evidence shows that cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, could decrease severe behavioral issues in children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) conducted a pilot study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology that reported clinically statistical significance in aggression, self-injury, irritability, and yelling among participants through the use of CBD.
In addition, the report noted that CBD was well-tolerated and safe to use by most study participants. The trial was randomized and controlled and included eight patients between the ages of eight and sixteen years old. Participants, who came from pediatric clinics of both hospital and private-practice settings, were randomly assigned to take either CBD or placebo throughout the eight weeks of the trial.
While this was a small study of only eight participants, the findings were promising. No conclusive statements about the use of CBD to treat behavioral issues in minors with intellectual disabilities can be made yet, but the results of the study warrant larger follow-up research. As such, large trials to test these findings are in the planning stages.
Furthermore, researchers are also looking for funding to assess the effectiveness of medical cannabis is other child and adolescent developmental disorders, including Tourette syndrome and autism spectrum disorder.
Clinician-scientist Daryl Efron, the leader of the MCRI pilot study, reported that this was the first research into the use of CBD for managing severe behavioral issues in minors with intellectual disabilities. He also said that most of the participants had autism as well.
The severe behavioral issues children and adolescents deal with in these cases, such as irritability, aggression, and self-injury, are often the cause of their functional impairments that ultimately lead to a lower quality of life and diminished learning opportunities. Unfortunately, the conventional pharmaceutical treatments available to this population have limited evidence of effectiveness and safety. These medications consist of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. Better treatment options are thus imperative and urgent.
This pilot study noted that the CBD used did not lead to any reported serious side effects and that it was well-tolerated overall. Even more assuring is that all parents reported that they would recommend the study to families with children who have similar issues.
Already, CBD is being used to treat children with epilepsy and numerous medical and psychiatric conditions in adults. Specifically, some children with severe forms of epilepsy have seen the quantity and severity of their seizures greatly reduced.
Efron mentioned an extensive interest in CBD and medical cannabis at large from parents and doctors as a potential treatment for behavioral issues in minors with intellectual disabilities.
“Parents of children with an intellectual disability and severe behavioral problems are increasingly asking pediatricians whether they can access medicinal cannabis for their child and some parents have reported giving unregulated cannabis products to their children,” Efron noted.
Because of the lack of conclusive evidence for the efficacy of medical cannabis use for most conditions at this point, doctors have found themselves unable to have meaningful conversations with their parents about this. Hopefully, as more medical cannabis research concludes, the answers to whether or not it can be safely used in both children and adults will be revealed.
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Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or prior to using any CBD products.